News: Recently, World Wetlands Day was celebrated on the 2nd of February 2022 across the globe.
- On the occasion, “National Wetland Decadal Change Atlas” was prepared by the Space Applications Center (SAC – one of the major centers of ISRO). The original Atlas was released by SAC in 2011 and has over the years been used extensively by all the State Governments also in their planning processes.
- Two new Ramsar sites (Wetlands of International Importance), Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat and Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary in UP were also announced on the occasion.
- This day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2ndFebruary 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. The Ramsar Convention 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. 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.
- It was first celebrated in 1997.
- Theme for 2022: Wetlands Action for People and Nature.
What is a Wetland?
- Wetlandsare ecosystems saturated with water, either seasonally or permanently. They include mangroves, marshes, rivers, lakes, deltas, floodplains and flooded forests, rice-fields, coral reefs, marine areas no deeper than 6 meters at low tide, as well as human-made wetlands such as waste-water treatment ponds and reservoirs.
- Wetlands are a critical part of our natural environment. They mitigate floods, protect coastlines and build community resilience to disasters, reduce the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality. Wetlands are critical to human and planet life. More than 1 billion people depend on them for a living and 40% of the world’s species live and breed in wetlands.
- They are a vital source for food, raw materials, genetic resources for medicines, and hydropower.
- 30% of land-based carbon is stored in peatland.
- They play an important role in transport, tourism and the cultural and spiritual well-being of people.
- Many wetlands are areas of natural beauty and many are important to Aboriginal people.
- As per the IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services)’s global assessment, wetlands are the most threatened ecosystem.
- Wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests due to human activities and global warming.
- According to UNESCO, the threat to wetlands will have an adverse impact on 40% of the world’s flora and fauna that live or breed in wetlands.
- Major threats: Agriculture, development, pollution and climate change.
- India has a network of49 Ramsar sites covering an area of 10,93,636 hectares, the highest in South Asia.
- Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary in UP provides a safe wintering and staging ground for a large number of species of the Central Asian Flyway while Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary (Gujarat) is a coastal wetland with rich avifaunal diversity providing a safe habitat to endangered and vulnerable species.
- In India, according to the National Wetland Inventory and Assessment compiled by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), wetlands are 4.63% of the total geographical area of the country.
- India has 19 types of wetlands.
- In state-wise distribution of wetlands, Gujarat is at the top(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, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.
Implication of including a wetland into Ramsar List:
- It is like an ISO certification. They can take it off the list as well if it doesn’t meet their standards continuously. It’s a feather in the cap but there is a cost to it and that cost can be paid only if there is brand value.
- Ramsar tag makes it incumbent upon authority to strengthen the protection regimethere and also creates defenses against encroachment.
- A number of species of birds prefer to avoid the Himalaya and instead choose the route passing through Afghanistan and Pakistan to enter the Indian sub-continent via Gujarat and Rajasthan. Thus, Gujarat becomes the first landing point of many international migratory species of ducks, waders, plovers, terns, gulls etc and shorebirds as well as birds of prey.
- Wetlands in India act as foraging and resting grounds for the migratory birds during winter.
- According to Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), CAF (Central Asian Flyway), 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.