Study Material | Test Series
Drishti IAS
call1800-121-6260 / 011-47532596
Drishti The Vision Foundation
(A unit of VDK Eduventures Pvt. Ltd.)
WETLANDS sites and Policy Measures for their conservation
Jun 04, 2014

  • Wetlands are complex ecosystems and encompass a wide range of inland, coastal and marine habitats. 

  • They share the characteristics of both wet and dry environments and show immense diversity based on their genesis, geographical location, hydrological regimes and substrate factors. 

  • They include flood plains, swamps, marshes, fishponds, tidal marshes natural and man-made wetlands. 

  • Among the most productive life support, wetlands have immense socio-economic and ecological importance for mankind. They are crucial to the survival of natural biodiversity. 

  • They provide suitable habitats for endangered and rare species of birds and animals, endemic plants, insects besides sustaining migratory birds. 

  • India has a wealth of wetland ecosystems distributed in different geographical regions. Most of the wetlands in India are directly or indirectly linked with major river systems such as the Ganges, Cauvery, Krishna, Godavari and Tapti. 

RAMSAR CONVENTION ON WETLANDS :

  • The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. 

  • There are presently 168 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 2181 wetland sites, totaling 208 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. 

  • Ramsar Convention is the only global environment treaty dealing with a particular ecosystem. 

  • The Convention uses a broad definition of the types of wetlands covered in its mission, including lakes and rivers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands and peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, near-shore marine areas, mangroves and coral reefs, and human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans.

  • At the centre of the Ramsar philosophy is the “wise use” concept. The wise use of wetlands is defined as "the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development". "Wise use" therefore has at its heart the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and their resources, for the benefit of humankind. 

  • The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was developed as a means to call international attention to the rate at which wetland habitats were disappearing, due to lack of understanding of their important functions, values, goods and services. 

  • Governments which have joined the Convention are expressing their willingness to make a commitment for helping to reverse that history of wetland loss and degradation. In addition, many wetlands are international systems lying across the boundaries of two or more countries, or are part of river basins that include more than one country. The health of these and other wetlands is dependent upon the quality and quantity of the transboundary water supply from rivers, streams, lakes, or underground aquifers. This requires framework for international discussion and cooperation toward mutual benefits. 

  • The salient features of Ramsar Convention includes recommendations for monitoring of biodiversity and anthropogenic impact; improvement of the legislation for protection of the wetlands; elaboration of economic mechanisms for the biodiversity protection while in nature management; organisation of new protected areas (Ramsar sites) in Kamchatka region; organisation of work with local population and search for sources of funding.

  • The Montreux Record is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference. It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List.

In India Keoladeo National Park on Rajasthan and Loktak Lake in Manipur have been registered in Montreux Record 

LIST OF WETLANDS IN INDIA:

 

Source: moef.gov.in

  • The wetlands in India are classified as  Himalayan wetlands which includes Ladakh and Zanskar Pangong Tso, Tso Morad, Chantau, Noorichan, Chushul and Hanlay marshes, Kashmir Valley including Dal, Anchar, Wular, Haigam, Malgam, Haukersar and Kranchu lakes,

  • Central Himalayas including Nainital, Bhimtal and Naukuchital and

  • Eastern Himalayas having numerous wetlands in Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Manipur, 

  • Beels in the Brahmaputra and Barak valley. 

  • Indo-Gangetic wetlands are the largest wetland system in India, extending from the river Indus in the west to Brahmaputra in the east. This includes the wetlands of the Himalayan terai and the Indo-Gangetic plains. 

  • Coastal wetlands contains the vast intertidal areas, mangroves and lagoons along the 7500 km long coastline in West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra. and Gujarat. 

  • Mangrove forests of Sunderbans, West Bengal and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. 

  • Offshore coral reefs of Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar, Lakshwadeep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. 

  • Deccan Wetland  includes a few natural wetlands, but innumerable small and large reservoirs and several water storage tanks in almost every village in the region.


LIST OF RAMSAR SITES IN INDIA :


The Convention on Wetlands came into force for India on 1 February 1982. India presently has 26 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of 689,131 hectares.

  • Ashtamudi Wetland in Kerela

  • Bhitarkanika Mangroves in Orissa: The site's Gahirmatha beach is said to host the largest knownOlive Ridley sea turtle nesting beach in the world, with half a million nesting annually, and the site has the highest density of saltwater crocodile in the country, with nearly 700Crocodylus porosus.

  • Bhoj Wetland in Madhya Pradesh:

  • Chandertal Wetland in Himachal Pradesh: It supports CITES and IUCN Redlisted Snow Leopard and is a refuge for many species like Snow Cock, Chukor, Black Ring Stilt, Kestrel, Golden Eagle, Chough, Red Fox, Himalayan Ibex, and Blue Sheep.

  • Chilika Lake in Orissa: 

  • Deepor Beel in Assam: Some globally threatened birds are supported, including Spotbilled Pelican (Pelicanus philippensis), Lesser and Greater Adjutant Stork (Leptoptilos javanicus and dubius), and Baer's Pochard (Aythya baeri).

  • East Calcutta Wetlands in West Bengal

  • Harike Lake in  Punjab

  • Hokera Wetland in Jammu & Kashmir: it is the only site with remaining reedbeds of Kashmir and pathway of 68 waterfowl species like Large Egret, Great Crested Grebe, Little Cormorant, Common Shelduck, Tufted Duck and endangered White-eyed Pochard, coming from Siberia, China, Central Asia, and Northern Europe

  • Kanjli in Punjab

  • Keoladeo National Park in  Rajasthan;  Added to the Montreux Record, World Heritage Site; National Park; Bird Sanctuary. 

  • Kolleru Lake in Andhra Pradesh. Wildlife Sanctuary. A natural eutrophic lake, situated between the two major river basins of the Godavari and the Krishna

  • Loktak Lake in  Manipur;  Added to the Montreux Record also

  • Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary in Gujarat; Wildlife Sanctuary. It is an important stopover site within the Central Asia Flyway, with globally threatened species such as the critically endangered Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarius) and the vulnerable Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris) stopping over at the site during migration, while the vulnerable Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) takes refuge there during summer when other water bodies are dry. The wetland is also a lifeline for a satellite population of the endangered Indian Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur) which uses this area in the dry season. Local communities heavily rely on the lake as it provides them with a source of drinking water and water for irrigiation, as well as an important source of income from fishing for Catla fish (Catla Catla) and Rohu (Labeo rohita).

  • Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary in. Tamil Nadu: provides habitat to Spoonbill Sandpiper (Euryhorhynchus pygmaeus) and Grey Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) and some 30,000 Greater and Lesser Flamingos.

  • Pong Dam Lake in  Himachal Pradesh.

  • Renuka Wetland. Himachal Pradesh; Wildlife Sanctuary, Reserve Forest. A natural wetland with freshwater springs and inland subterranean karst formations, fed by a small stream flowing from the lower Himalayan out to the Giri river. The lake is home to at least 443 species of fauna and 19 species of ichthyofauna representative of lacustrine ecosystems like Puntius, Labeo, Rasbora, Channa. Prominent vegetation ranges from dry deciduous like Shorea Robusta, Terminalia tomentosa, Dalbergia sissoo to hydrophytes. There are 103 species of birds of which 66 are residents, e.g. Crimson-breasted barbet, Mayna, Bulbul, Pheasants, Egrets, Herons, Mallards and Lapwing. Among ungulates Sambhar, Barking deer and Ghorals are also abundant in the area. The lake has high religious significance and is named after the mother of Hindu sage Parshuram, and is thus visited by thousands of pilgrims and tourists

  • Ropar in Punjab: The site is an important breeding place for the nationally protected Smooth Indian Otter, Hog Deer, Sambar, and several reptiles, and the endangered Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) is thought to be present. 

  • Rudrasagar Lake in Tripura: The lake is abundant in commercially important freshwater fishes likeBotia spp, Notopterus Chitala, Mystus spp., Ompok pabda, Labeo bata, and freshwater scampi, with annual production of 26 metric-tons, and an ideal habitat for IUCN Redlisted Three-striped Roof Turtle Kachuga dhongka

  • Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan

  • Sasthamkotta Lake in  Kerala

  • Surinsar-Mansar Lakes in  Jammu & Kashmir: The lake supports CITES and IUCN Redlisted Lissemys punctata, Aspideretes gangeticus, and Mansariella lacustris. This composite lake is high in micro nutrients for which it is an attractive habitat, breeding and nursery ground for migratory waterfowls like Fulica atra, Gallinula chloropus, Podiceps nigricollis, Aythya fuligula, and various Anas species.

  • Tsomoriri in Jammu & Kashmir. A freshwater to brackish lake lying at 4,595m above sea level, with wet meadows and borax-laden wetlands along the shores. The site is said to represent the only breeding ground outside of China for one of the most endangered cranes, the Black-necked crane (Grus nigricollis), and the only breeding ground for Bar-headed geese in India. The Great Tibetan Sheep or Argali (Ovis ammon hodgsoni) and Tibetan Wild Ass (Equus kiang) are endemic to the Tibetan plateau, of which the Changthang is the westernmost part.

  • Upper Ganga River (Brijghat to Narora Stretch) in ; Uttar Pradesd: A shallow river stretch of the great Ganges with intermittent small stretches of deep-water pools and reservoirs upstream from barrages. The river provides habitat for IUCN Red listed Ganges River Dolphin, Gharial, Crocodile, 6 species of turtles, otters, 82 species of fish and more than hundred species of birds. Major plant species, some of which have high medicinal values, include Dalbergia sissoo, Saraca indica, Eucalyptus globulus, Ficus bengalensis, Dendrocalamus strictus, Tectona grandis, Azadirachta indica and aquatic Eichhorina.

  • Vembanad-Kol Wetland in Kerala.

  • Wular Lake in  Jammu & Kashmir; 


Threats to wetlands :

The Wildlife Institute of Indias survey reveals that 70-80% of individual freshwater marshes and lakes in the Gangetic flood plains have been lost in the last five decades. At present, only 50 percent of Indias wetlands remain. They are disappearing at a rate of 2% to 3% every year. Indian mangrove areas have been halved almost from 700,000 hectares in 1987 to 453,000 hectares in 1995 (Sustainable Wetlands, Environmental Governance-2, 1999). A recent estimate based on remote sensing shows only 4000 sq. km area of mangrove resource in India.

The loss of wetlands leads to environmental and ecological problems, which have a direct impact on the socio-economic benefits of the associated populace. Serious consequences, including increased flooding, species decline, deformity, or extinction and decline in water quality could result. Wetlands are also important as a genetic reservoir for various species of plants including rice, which is a staple food for 3/4th of the world’s population.

Urbanization : Wetlands near urban centres are under increasing developmental pressure for residential, industrial and commercial facilities. Urban wetlands are essential for preserving public water supplies.

Anthropogenic activities : Due to unplanned urban and agricultural development, industries, road construction, impoundment, resource extraction and dredge disposal, wetlands have been drained and transformed, causing substantial economic and ecological losses in the long term.


Agricultural activities : Following the Green Revolution of the 1970s, vast stretches of wetlands have been converted to paddy fields. Construction of a large number of reservoirs, canals and dams to provide for irrigation significantly altered the hydrology of the associated wetlands.


Hydrologic activities : 
Construction of canals and diversion of streams and rivers to transport water to lower arid regions for irrigation has altered the drainage pattern and significantly degraded the wetlands of the region.

Deforestation :
Removal of vegetation in the catchments leads to soil erosion and siltation

Pollution :
Unrestricted dumping of sewage and toxic chemicals from industries has polluted many freshwater wetlands

Salinization :
Over withdrawal of groundwater has led to salinization

Aquaculture Demand for shrimps and fishes have provided economic incentives to convert wetlands and mangrove forests to develop pisciculture and aquaculture ponds.

Introduced species :
Indian wetlands are threatened by exotic introduced plant species such as water hyacinth and salvinia. They clog waterways and compete with native vegetation.

Climate change : Increased air temperature; shifts in precipitation; increased frequency of storms, droughts, and floods; increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration; and sea level rise could also affect wetlands.

NATIONAL WETLAND POLICY :

National wetland strategy encompass 

(i) Conservation and collaborative management, 

(ii) Prevention of loss and promotion of restoration and 


(iii) Sustainable management. 

  • These include Protection of the existing wetlands. Of the many wetlands in India, only around 68 wetlands are protected. But there are thousands of other wetlands that are biologically and economically important but have no legal status. 

  • Planning, Managing and Monitoring of Wetlands comes under the Protected Area Network have management plans but others do not. 

  • It is important for various stakeholders along with the local community and the corporate sector to come together for an effective management plan. Active monitoring of these wetland systems over a period of time is essential. 

  • Although several laws protect wetlands there is no special legislation pertaining specially to these ecosystems. 

  • Environment Impact Assessment is needed for major development projects and highlighting threats to wetlands need must be included and appropriate measures to be formulated. 

  • Coordinated Approach is required because Wetlands are common property with multi-purpose utility; their protection and management also need to be a common responsibility. 

  • An appropriate forum for resolving the conflict on wetland issues has to be set up. 

  • It is important for all the relevant ministries to allocate sufficient funds towards the conservation of these ecosystems. 

  • There is a necessity for research in the formulation of a national strategy to understand the dynamics of these ecosystems. 

  • This could be useful for the planners to formulate strategies for the mitigation of pollution. The scientific knowledge will help the planners in understanding the economic values and benefits, which in turn will help in setting priorities and focusing the planning process. 

  • Building Awareness is needed. Awareness among the general public, educational and corporate institutions must be created for achieving any sustainable success in the protection of these wetlands. The policy makers at various levels, along with site managers, need to be educated. 

  • The bi-lateral cooperation in the resource management needs to be enhanced if country's wetlands are shared.


NATIONAL WETLAND CONSERVATION PROGRAMME (NWCP) :

  • The Government opertionalized National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP) in closed collaboration with concerned State Government during the year 1986. 

  • Under the programme 115 wetlands have been identified till now by the Ministry of Environment and Forests which requires urgent conservation and management initiatives. 

  • The aim of this Scheme is Conservation and wise use of wetlands in the country so as to prevent their further degradation. 

  • The scheme was initiated to lay down policy guidelines for conservation and management of wetlands in the country; to undertake intensive conservation measures in priority wetlands; to monitor implementation of the programme and to prepare an inventory of Indian wetlands.  


LEGISLATIONS :

  • Wetlands conservation in India is indirectly influenced by an array of policy and legislative measures. 

  • Some of the key legislations are the Indian Fisheries Act, 1857, the Indian Forest Act, 1927, Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, Water (Prevention and Control of Pol1ution) Act, 1974, Territorial Water, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and other, Marine Zones Act, 1976, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1977, Maritime Zone of India.(Regulation and fishing by foreign vessels) Act 1980, Forest (Conservation Act), 1980, Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986, Coastal Zone Regulation Notification, 1991, Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act, 1991, based on UN Convention on Biological diversity 1992, Biological Diversity Act, 2002 was enacted. National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and Development, 1992, National Policy and Macro level Action Strategy on Biodiversity, 1999 are also formulated by Government.


WETLAND MANAGEMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT :


Wetlands are not delineated under any specific administrative jurisdiction. The primary responsibility for the management of these ecosystems is in the hands of the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Although some wetlands are protected after the formulation of the Wildlife Protection Act, effective coordination between the different ministries, energy, industry, fisheries, revenue, agriculture, transport and water resources, is essential for the protection of these ecosystems. Environmental management for sustainable utilization is the prime need of the hour. Industrial development with respect to automobiles, chemicals, fertilizers, insecticides, etc., are coming up very fast in India and due to various reasons these are often held responsible for environmental damage. Lack of environmentally educated society, inefficient management, weak law enforcement, corporate greed to earn more profit with less investment can also lead to chemical accidents and causing imbalance in sustainable development.

 

 


Helpline Number : 87501 87501
To Subscribe Newsletter and Get Updates.