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Ladakh’s Tso Kar Wetland Complex: Ramsar Site

  • 30 Dec 2020
  • 5 min read

Why in News

Recently, India has added Tso Kar Wetland Complex in Ladakh as its 42nd Ramsar site, a conservation status conferred by International Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

Key Points

  • About Tso Kar Wetland Complex:
    • The Tso Kar Basin is a high-altitude wetland complex, consisting of two principal waterbodies:
      • Startsapuk Tso, a freshwater lake of about 438 hectares to the south,
      • Tso Kar itself, a hypersaline lake of 1800 hectares to the north, situated in the Changthang region of Ladakh.
    • It is called Tso Kar, meaning white lake, because of the white salt efflorescence found on the margins due to the evaporation of highly saline water.
    • It is an A1 Category Important Bird Area (IBA) as per Bird Life International and a key staging site in the Central Asian Flyway.
      • Important Bird Area (IBA):
        • The IBA programme of the Bird Life International aims to identify, monitor and protect a global network of IBAs for conservation of the world's birds and associated biodiversity.
        • Bird Life International is a global partnership of non-governmental organizations that strives to conserve birds and their habitats.
      • Central Asian Flyway (CAF):
        • It covers a large continental area of Eurasia between the Arctic and Indian Oceans and the associated island chains.
        • The Flyway comprises several important migration routes of waterbirds, most of which extend from the northernmost breeding grounds in the Russian Federation (Siberia) to the southernmost non-breeding (wintering) grounds in West and South Asia, the Maldives and the British Indian Ocean Territory.
        • It covers at least 279 populations of 182 migratory waterbird species, including 29 globally threatened species.
    • The site is also one of the most important breeding areas of the near threatened Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis) in India.
    • It is the major breeding area for Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps Cristatus), Bar-headed Geese (Anser Indicus), Ruddy Shelduck (Tadornaferruginea), Brown-headed Gull (Larus Bunocephalus), Lesser Sand-Plover (Charadrius Mongolus) and many other species.
  • Importance of Wetlands:
    • Wetlands are defined as "lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water".
    • Wetlands provide a wide range of important resources and ecosystem services such as food, water, fibre, groundwater recharge, water purification, flood moderation, erosion control and climate regulation.
    • They are, in fact, a major source of water and the main supply of freshwater comes from an array of wetlands which help soak rainfall and recharge groundwater.

Ramsar Site

  • Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty adopted in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea.
  • It came into force for India on 1st February, 1982.
  • Those wetlands which are of international importance are declared as Ramsar sites.
  • The Convention’s mission is the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.
  • 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.
  • At present, two wetlands of India are in Montreux Record:
    • Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan) and
    • Loktak Lake (Manipur).
    • Chilika Lake (Odisha) was placed in the record but later removed from it.


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