Chapter - 4 - Wetlands; Environment and Disaster Management UPSC Notes | EduRev

Environment and Additional Topics for UPSC Prelims

UPSC : Chapter - 4 - Wetlands; Environment and Disaster Management UPSC Notes | EduRev

The document Chapter - 4 - Wetlands; Environment and Disaster Management UPSC Notes | EduRev is a part of the UPSC Course Environment and Additional Topics for UPSC Prelims.
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WETLANDS

4.1. INTRODUCTION
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. The land area is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, such that it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem. The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil (saturated soil with anaerobic conditions).
Under the Ramsar International Wetland Conservation treaty, wetlands are defined as:

Article 1.1.: Wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peatland 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 metres.

Article 2.1.: Wetlands may incorporate riparian and coastal zones adjacent to the wetlands, and islands or bodies of marine water deeper than six metres at low tide lying within the wetlands.

4.2. CLASSIFICATION
There are several ways in which the wetland classification is done. According to Ramsar Convention, three major classes are identified:
 Marine/Coastal Wetlands
 Inland Wetlands
 Human-made Wetlands
These are subdivided by the type of water: fresh / saline / brackish / alkaline; further may be subdivided based on whether they are permanent or temporary.
Examples:

Wetland Type 

Subtype 

Example 

Marine/Coastal

Saline

Shallow waters less than 6 m deep, Coral Reefs

Sand, shingle or pebble shores

Saline or Brackish

 

Intertidal marshes and forested wetlands, Mangroves, coastal lagoons, estuarine waters, Karst or other subterranean hydrological systems (maybe fresh water also)

Inland

Fresh water

Flowing water like rivers, streams; Inland river deltas; Freshwater springs, oasis

Seasonal rivers and streams; Lakes

Saline, Brackish or Alkaline

 

Bogs, Peats, Marshes

Human Made

 

Aquaculture ponds, irrigation channels, irrigated fields, seasonally flooded agricultural land, salt exploitation sites, Water storage areas and dams

 4.3. THE FOUR MAIN TYPES OF WETLANDS
 

4.3.1. MARSH
It is a wetland that is dominated by herbaceous rather than woody plant species. Marshes can often be found at the edges of lakes and streams, where they form a transition between the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. They are often dominated by grasses, rushes or reeds. If woody plants are present they tend to be low-growing shrubs.

4.3.2. SWAMP
A swamp is a wetland that is forested. Swamps are characterized by slow-moving to stagnant waters. They are usually associated with adjacent rivers or lakes. The water of a swamp may be fresh water, brackish water or seawater. Some of the world's largest swamps are found along major rivers such as the Amazon, the Mississippi, and the Congo. Peat swamp forests are swamp forests where waterlogged soils prevent woody debris from fully decomposing, which over time creates a thick layer of acidic peat.
Mire- A mire is a wetland without forest cover, dominated by peat-forming plants. There are two types of mires:-

Chapter - 4 - Wetlands; Environment and Disaster Management UPSC Notes | EduRev

4.3.3. BOG
A Bog is a mire that accumulates peat. A Bog is dome shaped landform, is higher than the surrounding landscape, and obtains most of its water from rainfall. The gradual accumulation of decayed plant material in a bog functions as a carbon sink. The characteristic is acidic surface water, low in nutrients. These are the features of cold, temperate boreal climate of Northern Hemisphere.
 

Chapter - 4 - Wetlands; Environment and Disaster Management UPSC Notes | EduRev

4.3.4. FEN
The difference with Bog is that a Fen is served by both groundwater and rainfall and is therefore, is slightly acidic, neutral or alkaline. It is relatively rich in minerals. It is located on a slope, flat or a depression. They are also features of cold climates such as in Western Europe.

4.4. ECOLOGY OF WETLANDS
Despite their great range in size and other features, wetlands share specific characteristics. These can be structural (water, substrate, biota), or functional (nutrient cycling, water balance, organic production).
Wetlands are neither aquatic nor terrestrial. Wetlands have some of the same features as deep-water systems like species of algae, vertebrates, and invertebrates. Most wetlands share with terrestrial ecosystems a flora dominated by vascular plants, although the species composition of wetlands generally differs from that of uplands. Wetlands often are found at the interface of terrestrial ecosystems (such as upland forests and grasslands) and aquatic systems (such as lakes, rivers, and estuaries).
1. Hydrology - Hydrology controls (and is in turn affected by) the abiotic and biotic characteristics of wetlands. Abiotic characteristics such as soil colour, texture, and water quality depend on the distribution and movement of water. It also influences the structure and function of wetland ecosystems through its influence on species richness, productivity, rates of organic matter accumulation, and nutrient cycling. Sources of hydrological flows into wetlands are predominantly precipitation, surface water, and ground water. Water flows out of wetlands by evapotranspiration, surface runoff, and sub-surface water outflow. Hydrodynamics (the movement of water through and from a wetland) affects hydroperiods (temporal fluctuations in water levels) by controlling the water balance and water storage within a wetland.
Hydrology may restrict species richness in areas subject to long-term flooding while enhancing it in areas with variable hydroperiods. Similarly, productivity is typically lower in permanently flooded, stagnant wetlands than in slow-flowing, seasonally flooded ones.
 

2. Soil Acidity/Alkalinity – Low mineral content yields fewer nutrients and a lower pH. Acidic conditions inhibit the ability of most plants to take up nutrients.

3. Oxygen Availability - The inundation or saturation of wetland soils by water leads to the formation of anaerobic conditions as oxygen is depleted faster than it can be replaced by diffusion.

4.5. WETLAND COMMUNITIES AND ECOSYSTEMS
Because of the predominance of water and anaerobic conditions in wetlands, the organisms living there, especially rooted plants, exhibit remarkable adaptations to deal with the stresses imposed by flooding. These adaptations, including pressurized gas flow, creation of oxidized root zones, and anaerobic respiration, allow wetland plants to remain productive under otherwise stressful conditions, making wetlands among the most productive ecosystems in the world. This high primary production, in turn, supports high rates of secondary production

Mangroves are an example of tropical coastal vegetation, which shows number of adaptations to wetland conditions. For a plant to survive in this environment it must tolerate broad ranges of salinity, temperature, and moisture, as well as a number of other key environmental factors — thus only a select few species make up the mangrove tree community. Some of the adaptations are:

 They are salt tolerant, also called Halophytes. They have a complex salt filtration systems and a complex root system to cope with salt water immersion and wave action. They can also store salts in cell vacuoles.

 Adapted to low oxygen (Anoxic) conditions – Pneumatophores, which are specialised root-like structures which stick out of the soil like straws for breathing. They also absorb gases like nitrogen directly and store them.

 Lenticles are pores in the bark which also help absorb air.

 Buttress roots, which are aerial extensions of lateral surface roots and form only in certain species. Buttress roots stabilize the tree, especially in shallow, saturated, nutrient poor soils.

 Vivipary Germination – Seeds germinate while being attached to the parent tree, unlike most other plants whose seeds germinate in the soil. Once matured, it is called propagule, it drops into the water which transports it. This is how survival of offspring is ensured.

 Limiting the water loss through restriction of opening of stomata.

It should be noted that a given Mangrove vegetation has only a small number of tree species (most common is Rhizophora), and that too show distinct zonation, but the overall biodiversity of the ecosystem is very high.

4.6. IMPORTANCE OF WETLANDS
While covering only 6% of the Earth's surface, wetlands provide a disproportionately high number of ecosystem services, in addition to maintaining biodiversity. For instance, wetlands also mitigate floods, protect coastal areas from storms, improve water quality, recharge groundwater aquifers, serve as sinks, sources, or transformers of materials, and produce food and goods for human use. Regional wetlands are integral parts of larger landscapes; their functions and values to the people in these landscapes depend on both their extent and their location. Each wetland thus is ecologically unique. Some important uses of wetlands:
 Aquaculture: Wetlands are used to harvest fish/aquatic animals for human consumption and pharmaceuticals.

 Flood control: they act as a barrier to absorb excess water.

 Groundwater replenishment: The surface water which is the water visibly seen in wetland systems only represents a portion of the overall water cycle which also includes atmospheric water and groundwater. Wetland systems are directly linked to groundwater and a crucial regulator of both the quantity and quality of water found below the ground.

 Shoreline stabilisation and storm protection: Tidal and inter-tidal wetland systems protect and stabilize coastal zones. Coral reefs and mangroves provide a protective barrier to coastal shoreline.

 Nutrient retention: Wetland vegetation up-take and store nutrients found in the surrounding soil and water.

 Sediment traps

 Water purification: Many wetland systems possess biofilters, hydrophytes, and organisms that in addition to nutrient up-take abilities have the capacity to remove toxic substances that have come from pesticides, industrial discharges, and mining activities.

 Reservoirs of biodiversity

 Wetland products: Apart from aquaculture products, wetland systems naturally produce an array of vegetation and other ecological products that can harvested for personal and commercial use. Some important products: rice, sago palm, nipa palm, honey from mangroves, Fuel wood, Salt (produced by
evaporating seawater), Animal fodder, Traditional medicines (e.g. from mangrove bark), Fibres for textiles, Dyes and tannins.
 Cultural values
 Recreation and tourism
 Climate change mitigation and adaptation: Wetlands perform two important functions in relation to climate change. They have mitigation effects through their ability to sink carbon, and adaptation effects through their ability to store and regulate water. However, coastal wetlands, such as tropical mangroves and temperate salt marshes are also emitters of nitrous oxide (N2O). In Southeast Asia, peatswamp forests and soils are source of CO2. Rice fields are source of methane.

4.7. WETLANDS AS RESERVOIR OF BIODIVERSITY
Wetlands are considered the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, serving as home to a wide range of plant and animal life.
 Flora: There are several hundred plant species wetlands, including mosses, herbs, ferns, rushes, sedges, grasses (seagrass and eelgrass), reeds, shrubs and trees. Wetland plants are adapted to a wetland’s hydrological regime. Some plants require wetting and drying cycles to reproduce, such as river red gums. Other plants require a constant supply of water to survive, such as aquatic plants like sedges and rushes, marine plants like seagrasses, and cool climate plants like mosses.

 Fauna:
o Fish are more dependent on wetland ecosystems than any other type of habitat. Tropical fish species need mangroves for critical hatchery and nursery grounds and the coral reef system for food.
o Amphibians such as frogs need both terrestrial and aquatic habitats in which to reproduce and feed.
o Reptiles such as alligators and crocodiles are common reptilian species.
o Mammals such as the beaver, swamp rabbit, and panther.
o Monotremes (Mammals that lay eggs) such as platypus endemic to Australia.
o Insects and invertebrates total more than half of the 100,000 known animal species in wetlands.
o Birds: Wetlands are habitat to birds like waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans), grebes, pelicans, etc. They are also important as resting sites for migratory birds. Aquatic vegetation is a valuable source of food, especially for waterfowl in India. In the winter, migratory waterfowl search the sediment for nutritious seeds, roots and tubers. Resident waterfowl may feed on different species of aquatic vegetation year-round.

 Algae: Algae occur naturally in habitats such as inland lakes, inter-tidal zones, and damp soil and provide a dedicated food source for animals, fish, and invertebrates.

4.8. WETLAND DISTRIBUTION IN INDIA
Natural wetlands in India consists of the high-altitude Himalayan lakes, followed by wetlands situated in the flood plains of the major river systems, saline and temporary wetlands of the arid and semi-arid regions, coastal wetlands such as lagoons, backwaters and estuaries, mangrove swamps, coral reefs and marine wetlands, and so on. With the exception of bogs, fens and typical salt marshes, Indian wetlands cover the whole range of the ecosystem types found. In addition to the various types of natural wetlands, a large number of man-made wetlands also contribute to the faunal and floral diversity. These man-made wetlands, which have resulted from the needs of irrigation, water supply, electricity, fisheries and flood control, are substantial in number. The various reservoirs, shallow ponds and numerous tanks support wetland biodiversity and add to the country's wetland wealth. It is estimated that freshwater wetlands alone support 20 per cent of the known range of biodiversity in India.

The majority of the inland wetlands are directly or indirectly dependent on the major rivers like Ganga, Bhramaputra, Narmada, Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri and Tapti. They occur in the hot arid regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan, the deltaic regions of the east and west coasts, highlands of central India, wet humid zones of south peninsular India and the Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands.

Wetlands in India account for 4.7% of the total geographical area of the country. Out of this, area under inland wetlands accounts for 69%, coastal wetlands 27%, and other wetlands (smaller than 2.25 ha) 4%. In terms of average area under each type of wetland, natural coastal wetlands have the largest area. In terms of the proportion of the geographical area, Gujarat has the highest proportion (17.5%) and Mizoram has the lowest proportion (0.66%) of the area under wetlands. Among Union Territories in India, Lakshadweep has the highest proportion (around 96%) and Chandigarh has the least proportion (3%) of geographical area under wetlands.

Indian wetlands are grouped as:
 Himalayan wetlands: Ladakh and Zanskar (Pangong Tso, Tso Morad, Chantau, Noorichan, Chushul and Hanlay marshes); Kashmir Valley (Dal, Anchar, Wular, Haigam, Malgam, Haukersar and Kranchu lakes); Central Himalayas (Nainital, Bhimtal and Naukuchital); Eastern Himalayas (Numerous wetlands in Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Manipur, Beels in the Brahmaputra and Barak valley)
 Indo-Gangetic wetlands: The Indo-Gangetic flood plain is 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: 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, Andaman and Nicobar Islands; Offshore coral reefs of Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar, Lakshwadeep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
 Deccan: A few natural wetlands, but innumerable small and large reservoirs and several water storage tanks in almost every village in the region.

Chapter - 4 - Wetlands; Environment and Disaster Management UPSC Notes | EduRev

4.9. THREAT TO WETLAND ECOSYSTEM
Wetlands are often described as kidneys of the landscape. Hydrological conditions can directly modify or change chemical and physical properties such as nutrient availability, degree of substrate anoxia, soil salinity, sediment properties, and pH. These modifications have a direct impact on the biotic response in the wetlands through changes in species composition and richness and in ecosystem productivity. The density of birds, in particular, is an accurate indication of the ecological health of a particular wetland.
Wetlands are one of the most threatened habitats of the world and face several anthropogenic pressures. The rapidly expanding human population, large-scale changes in land use/land covers, burgeoning development projects, industrialisation and improper use of watersheds have all caused a substantial decline of wetland resources of the country. The most significant threat has been from agriculture. Unsustainable levels of grazing and fishing activities have also resulted in degradation of wetlands.
Some seriously threatened wetlands in India are - Dal Lake, Loktak Lake, Wular Lake, Salt Lakes swamp, Harike Lake, Sunderbans, Southern Gulf of Kutch, Estuaries of the Karnataka coast, Gulf of Khambhat, Dipor Bheel, Wetlands in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

4.10. CAUSES OF WETLAND LOSS IN INDIA
Human Causes:
 Drainage for agriculture, forestry and mosquito control
 Dredging and stream channelization for navigation and food protection
 Filling for solid waste disposal, roads
 Conservation for aquaculture/mariculture
 Construction of dykes, dams and seawalls for flood control
 Discharge of pesticide, herbicide, nutrients from domestic sewage
 Mining of wetlands for peat, coal, gravel, phosphate and other minerals
 Ground water abstraction
 Sediment diversion by dams, deep channels
 Hydrological alterations by canals, roads and other structures
 Subsidence due to extraction of ground water oil, gas and other minerals

Natural Causes:
 Subsidence
 Sea level rise
 Drought
 Hurricane and other storms
 Erosion
 Biotic effects (natural as well as induced due to disturbances)

4.11. WETLAND PROTECTION EFFORTS IN INDIA
In India, wetlands continue to be seen in isolation and hardly figure in water resources management and development plans. 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. Though India is signatory to both Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the Convention of Biological Diversity, there is no clear cut regulatory framework for conservation of wetlands. 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.

Protection laws and government initiatives
Though there is no separate legal provision for wetland conservation in India, it is indirectly influenced by number of other legal instruments like - The Indian Fisheries Act – 1857, The Indian Forest Act – 1927, Wildlife (Protection) Act – 1972, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution)Act – 1974, 1977, Environmental (Protection) Act – 1986, Coastal Zone Regulation Notification – 1991, etc.
Provisions under these acts range from protection of water quality and notification of ecologically sensitive areas to contributing towards conserving, maintaining, and augmenting the floral, faunal and avifaunal biodiversity of the country's aquatic bodies. However, the term wetland was not used specifically in any of these legal instruments.

1. National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP)
Government of India operationalized National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP) in closed collaboration with concerned State Government during the year 1985/86. Under the programme 115 wetlands have been identified till now by the Ministry which require urgent conservation and management initiatives (there are 26 Ramsar sites). The Scheme aims for conservation and wise use of wetlands in the country so as to prevent their further degradation. It has the following objectives:
 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.

Conservation and management of wetlands is primarily vested with the State/UTs, who are in physical possession of the area. After identification of wetlands under the Scheme, the State/UTs are to submit long-term comprehensive Management Action Plans (MAPs) for a period of 3-5 years. Under the Scheme, Ministry also sponsor multidisciplinary research projects by academic/ managerial/ research institutions on various aspects of wetland conservation to supplement execution of MAP in more realistic manner.
In 1993, National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP) was carved out of NWCP to focus on lakes particularly those located in urban and peri-urban areas which are subjected to anthropogenic pressures.

2. The National Environmental Policy 2006
recognized the importance of wetlands in providing numerous ecological services. The policy accepted that there is no formal system of wetland regulation in the country outside the international commitments made in respect of Ramsar sites and thus there is a need of legally enforceable regulatory mechanism for identified valuable wetlands, to prevent their degradation and enhance their conservation.
Based on the directives of National Environment Policy, 2006 and recommendations made by National Forest Commission, Central Government notified the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010. Under it, Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority (CWRA) has been constituted. The rules put restrictions on the activities such as reclamation, setting up industries in vicinity, solid waste dumping, manufacture or storage of hazardous substances, discharge of untreated effluents, any permanent construction, etc. within the wetlands. It also regulates activities (which will not be permitted without the consent of the State government) such as hydraulic alterations, unsustainable grazing, harvesting of resources, releasing treated effluents, aquaculture, agriculture and dredging.
The wetlands included under it are: (1) wetlands selected under Ramsar Convention; (2) wetlands in ecologically sensitive and important areas; (3) wetlands recognized as UNESCO World Heritage site; (4) high altitude wetlands (at or above an elevation of 2500 m with an area equal to or greater than five hectares); (5) wetland complexes below an elevation of 2500 m with an area equal to or greater than 500 ha; and (6) any other wetland identified by the Authority (Wetlands Rules, 2010).

Criticism:
Despite the recent national legislation on wetland regulation, a majority of the wetlands continue to be ignored in the policy process. Also, rules do not recognize the traditional rights over the wetlands for livelihoods even as they seek to regulate such activities. Such regulation can in effect become prohibitive for livelihood activities. The rules limit the involvement of community and local stakeholder groups in the management of the wetlands. This goes against the Ramsar Convention which encourages active and informed participation of local and indigenous communities.
Given that only a small fraction of total wetlands have been taken up for conservation and growing threat to their ecosystem, it is essential that other ecologically important wetlands be identified and protected. Further, it is important to regulate large scale land use changes in the catchment area of wetlands and also prevent them from getting polluted in order to maintain their hydrological and ecological integrity. For achieving the second objective, an effective and proper water quality monitoring plan needs to be devised.

4.12. NATIONAL WETLAND PROTECTION STRATEGY
National wetland strategy should encompass:
 Conservation and collaborative management,
 Prevention of loss and promotion of restoration
 Sustainable management.

These include:
1. Protection: The primary necessity today is to protect the existing wetlands. There are thousands of wetlands that are biologically and economically important but have no legal status.
2. Planning, Managing and Monitoring: Wetlands that come 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.
3. Comprehensive Inventory: There has been no comprehensive inventory of all the Indian wetlands. The inventory should involve the flora, fauna, and biodiversity along with wetland direct and indirect values. It should take into account the various stakeholders in the community too.
4. Legislation: 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.
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5. Coordinated Approach: 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.
6. Research: 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.
7. Building Awareness: For achieving any sustainable success in the protection of these wetlands, awareness among the general public, educational and corporate institutions must be created. The policy makers at various levels, along with site managers, need to be educated. Because the country's wetlands are shared, the bi-lateral cooperation in the resource management needs to be enhanced.

Research Method
Remote sensing data in combination with Geographic Information System (GIS) methods are effective tools for wetland conservation and management. The application encompasses water resource assessment, hydrological modelling, flood management, reservoir capacity surveys, assessment and monitoring of the environmental impacts of water resources projects and water quality mapping and monitoring.

Conclusion
India being a mega-diversity country, so far managed to delineate a mere 26 sites to date. There is obviously much ground to be covered in our conservation efforts for wetlands. In addition, a paradigm shift in our conservation ethic is also a strong need of the hour. This shift is due to the very nature of the resource being conserved and protected. Because wetlands are a common property resource, it is an uphill task to protect or conserve the ecosystems unless the principal stakeholders are involved in the process. The dynamic nature of wetlands necessitates the widespread and consistent use of satellite-based remote sensors and low-cost, affordable GIS tools for effective management and monitoring.

______________________________

 The country with the highest number of Sites is the United Kingdom with 170, and the country with the greatest area of listed wetlands is Bolivia, with over 140,000 square kilometres.
 Most recent COP12 was held in Punta del Este, Uruguay in 2015. COP13 will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2018.
 The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) called for different sectors to join forces to secure wetland environments in the context of sustainable development and improving human wellbeing.
 Wetlands occur naturally on every continent except Antarctica, the largest including the Amazon River basin, the West Siberian Plain, and the Pantanal in South America.
 Latest wetland added in Ramsar list is Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary in Gujarat.

______________________________

4.13. RAMSAR CONVENTION ON WETLAND
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 169 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 2,234 wetland sites, totalling 215 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 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was developed as a means to call international attention to the rate at which wetland habitats were disappearing, in part due to a lack of understanding of their important functions, values, goods and services. Governments that join the Convention are expressing their willingness to make a commitment to 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 trans-boundary water supply from rivers, streams, lakes, or underground aquifers. This requires framework for international discussion and cooperation toward mutual benefits.
Major obligations of countries which are party to the Convention are:
 Designate wetlands for inclusion in the List of Wetlands of International Importance.
 Promote, as far as possible, the wise use of wetlands in their territory.
 Promote international cooperation especially with regard to trans-boundary wetlands, shared water systems, and shared species.
 Create wetland reserves.

Criteria for representative or unique wetlands
A wetland is identified as being of international importance if it meets the criteria that were approved under Montreux (Switzerland) Record of the Ramsar Convention. Some of these are:
 Sites containing representative, rare or unique wetland types
 A wetland should be considered internationally important if it supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities.
 Supports populations of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region.
 Regularly supports 20,000 or more waterbirds.
 Supports a significant proportion of indigenous fish subspecies and contributes to global biological diversity.
 Important source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks, either within the wetland or elsewhere, depend.
 Regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of wetland dependent non-avian animal species.

Ramsar Sites in India
The list of Ramsar sites in India is as follows:

 

S. N. 

Name of Site 

State Location 

Date of Declaration 

Area (in sq.km.) 

1

Asthamudi Wetland

Kerala

19.8.2002

1860

2

Bhitarkanika Mangroves

Orissa

19.8.2002

525

3

Bhoj Wetlands

Madhya Pradesh

19.8.2002

31

4

Chandertal Wetland

Himachal Pradesh

8.11.2005

38.56

5

Chilka Lake

Orissa

1.10.1981

1140

6

Deepor Beel

Assam

19.8.2002

4.14

7

East Calcutta Wetlands

West Bengal

19.8.2002

378

8

Harike Lake

Punjab

23.3.1990

86

9

Hokera Wetland

Jammu and Kashmir

8.11.2005

13.75

10

Kanjli Lake

Punjab

22.1.2002

14.84

11

Keoladeo Ghana NP

Rajasthan

1.10.1981

28.73

12

Kolleru Lake

Andhra Pradesh

19.8.2002

673

13

Loktak Lake

Manipur

23.3.1990

945

14

Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary

Gujarat

24/09/12

120

15

Point Calimere

Tamil Nadu

19.8.2002

17.26

16

Pong Dam Lake

Himachal Pradesh

19.8.2002

307.29

17

Renuka Wetland

Himachal Pradesh

8.11.2005

Not Available

18

Ropar Lake

Punjab

22.1.2002

41.36

19

Rudrasagar Lake

Tripura

8.11.2005

2.40

20

Sambhar Lake

Rajasthan

23.3.1990

736

21

Sasthamkotta Lake

Kerala

19.8.2002

11.3

22

Surinsar-Mansar Lakes

Jammu and Kashmir

8.11.2005

3.50

23

Tsomoriri Lake

Jammu and Kashmir

19.8.2002

120

24

Vembanad Kol Wetland

Kerala

19.8.2002

4583

25

Upper Ganga River (Brijghat to Narora Stretch)

Uttar Pradesh

8.11.2005

265.90

26

Wular Lake

Jammu & Kashmir

23.3.1990

173

 

 

Montreux Record
It is a register of wetland sites on the list of wetlands of international importance where changes in ecological character have occurred or are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference. It is maintained as part of Ramsar List.
Currently, two wetlands of India are in Montreux record viz. Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan and Loktak Lake, Manipur. Further, Chilka Lake was placed in the record but was later removed from it.

Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON)
The necessity for the study and conservation of birds in particular, and wildlife and biodiversity in general, prompted the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India to establish the Salim Ali Centre for
Ornithology & Natural History as a public - NGO partnership between the MoEF, and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) under the Centre of Excellence Scheme. It is a Society registered in 1990 under the Societies registration Act, with the object of establishing and developing a Centre of Excellence to assist, institute, conduct and promote scientific research in ornithology, and of species, habitats and ecosystems with and within which avifauna coexist, and developing scientific solutions to species, habitat and landscape conservation problems that are sensitive to the socio-economic realities and aspirations of the people.

4.14. WETLANDS INTERNATIONAL

Chapter - 4 - Wetlands; Environment and Disaster Management UPSC Notes | EduRev
It is a global organisation that works to sustain and restore wetlands and their resources for people and biodiversity. It is an independent, not-for-profit, global organisation, supported by government and NGO membership from around the world.
Wetlands International has been the driving force behind the development of the Central Asian Flyway initiative. The Central Asian Flyway covers the areas used by species of birds with the main migratory routes through Central Asia. It has also been referred to as “Central Asian-Indian Flyway” or as “Central Asian-South Asian Flyway”. As such, the area extends from the Arctic Ocean in the North until the Indian Ocean in the South (including islands in that region) and thus covers territories of 30 Asian and East European countries. It overlaps with the African Eurasian flyway in the West, and the East Asian flyways in the East.

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