Why in News?
- With the addition of these five wetlands, the number of Ramsar Sites in India has gone up to 54, the highest for any country in South Asia.
- The Ramsar Convention, which came into existence in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
What are the different definitions of wetlands?
- The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands defines wetlands as “areas of marsh, fen, peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters”.
- However, the Indian government’s definition of wetland excludes river channels, paddy fields and other areas where commercial activity takes place. This is based on The Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 notified by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
Wetlands in India
- Globally, wetlands cover 6.4 per cent of the geographical area of the world.
- In India, according to the National Wetland Inventory and Assessment compiled by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), wetlands are spread over 1,52,600 square kilometres (sq km) which is 4.63 per cent of the total geographical area of the country.
- Of the 1,52,600 sq km, inland-natural wetlands account for 43.4% and coastal-natural wetlands 24.3%.
- India has 19 types of wetlands. In state-wise distribution of wetlands, Gujarat is at the top with 34,700 sq km (17.56% of total geographical area of the state), or 22.7% of total wetlands areas of the country thanks to a long coastline.
- It is followed by Andhra Pradesh (14,500 sq km), Uttar Pradesh (12,400 sq km) and West Bengal (11,100 sq km).
Ramsar Sites in India
- The five new wetlands that have been added to the list are the Karikili Bird Sanctuary, Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest and Pichavaram Mangrove in Tamil Nadu, the Sakhya Sagar in Madhya Pradesh and Pala Wetland in Mizoram.
- India’s tally of 54 designated wetlands is the largest network of Ramsar Sites in South Asia.
- Of the 54 sites, 10 are in UP, 6 in Punjab, 4 each in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Jammu and Kashmir, 3 each in Himachal Pradesh and Kerala, 2 each in Haryana, Maharashtra, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan and one each in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Ladakh, Manipur, Tripura, Uttarakhand, among others.
- The countries with the most Ramsar Sites are the United Kingdom (175) and Mexico (142), as per the Ramsar List. Bolivia has the largest area with 148,000 sq km under the Convention protection. Canada, Chad, Congo and the Russian Federation have also each designated over 100,000 sq km.
India’s importance in the Central Asian Flyway (CAF)
- Dozens of species of birds of Central Asia and Siberia migrate to warmer tropical regions, including India and equatorial regions to escape harsh winter in their breeding grounds.
- According to Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), CAF, which includes 30 countries, covers at least 279 populations of 182 migratory waterbird species, including 29 globally threatened and near-threatened species, which breed, migrate and winter within the region.
- Wetlands in India act as foraging and resting grounds for these migratory birds during winter.
- Designating a wetland as a wetland of global importance may not lead to any extra funding by the global body.But from the management point of view, it is like an accreditation. It is like an ISO certification. They can take you off the list as well if you don’t meet their standards continuously.