Ten more Indian sites have entered the Ramsar List, taking the number of wetlands of international importance in the country to 64.
The new sites include six wetlands from Tamil Nadu and one each from Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.
The 10 new Ramsar Sites
1) Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary is a significant man-made wetland which covers an area of 72.04 hectares. It is situated in Nanguneri Taluk of Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu and is the largest reserve for breeding resident and migratory water birds in South India.
2) Satkosia spreads along the magnificent gorge over the river Mahanadi in Odisha. Established in 1976 as a wildlife sanctuary, Satkosia is the meeting point of two biogeographic regions of India: the Deccan Peninsula and the Eastern Ghats. Satkosia Gorge wetland is a mosaic of marshes and evergreen forests. The forests of these catchments play a vital role in the prevention of the gorge siltation. It also helps in maintaining a specific desirable depth of water crucial for the endangered gharial population and spawning of commercially important carps species.
3) Nanda Lake in Goa is considered to be critically significant for its ecosystem services and biodiversity values for the local communities and society at large. A majority of the area is intermittent freshwater marshes that lie adjacent to one of the major rivulets of the Zuari River.
4) Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve in Tamil Nadu is located in the southeastern coastline and is a unique marine environment rich in biodiversity. This is the first Marine Biosphere Reserve in South and South-East Asia.
5) Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is located in the Mandya district of Karnataka. It has been enlisted as one of the Important Bird Areas in Karnataka and India by the Bombay Natural History Society.
6) Vembannur wetland in Tamil Nadu is a man-made inland tank which forms the southernmost tip of peninsular India. This wetland forms part of the Important Bird and Biodiversity Area and hence part of the BirdLife International Data Zone. About 250 species of birds have been recorded in the district.
7) Vellode Bird Sanctuary is located in the Vadamugam Vellode village in Tamil Nadu’s Erode district. Locally known as Periyakulam Yeri, it is one of the 141 prioritized wetlands in the state.
8) Sirpur wetland is a significant historical wetland in Indore which is only important for its aesthetic value but also provides immense ecological services such as being an important source of water and helping groundwater recharge in the downstream areas. Sirpur wetland is also culturally important to the local communities of the city.
9) Vedanthangal wetland is one of the oldest bird-protected areas in Chengalpattu district of Tamil Nadu. This freshwater wetland is a people-protected waterbird area, the history of which goes back to centuries where locals have been protecting this heronry and in return benefited from the manure-rich water from the lake. This site is also recognized internationally, as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA).
10) Udhayamarthandapuram Bird Sanctuary is located in the TiruthuraipoondiTaluk of Tiruvarur district of Tamil Nadu. It is an important staging and breeding ground for several species of waterbirds.
What is the Ramsar Convention?
• The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty signed by 172 countries to protect wetlands. It is named after the city in Iran where it was signed, and it began with 18 countries in 1971.
• The convention is one of the oldest inter-governmental accords for preserving the ecological character of wetlands. Also known as the Convention on Wetlands, it aims to develop a global network of wetlands for the conservation of biological diversity and for sustaining human life.
• It is one of the largest international agreements, after the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, 196 countries) and the UN climate agreement (UNFCCC, 197 countries).
• The Ramsar List is the world’s largest network of protected areas.
• There are over 2,400 Ramsar Sites around the world. The first Site was the Cobourg Peninsula in Australia, designated in 1974. The largest Sites are Rio Negro in Brazil (120,000 sq km), and Ngiri-Tumba-Maindombe in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Queen Maud Gulf in Canada. These Sites each cover over 60,000 sq km.
• The countries with the most Sites are the United Kingdom with 175 and Mexico with 142. Bolivia has the largest area with 148,000 square km under the Convention protection.
• The signatory countries promise to make inventories of their Ramsar Sites and to develop management plans. These management plans include the sustainable use of the many other functions of wetlands, such as food production, water storage and recreation.
What are wetlands?
• Wetlands are land areas that are saturated or flooded with water either permanently or seasonally. Inland wetlands include marshes, ponds, lakes, fens, rivers, floodplains and swamps. Coastal wetlands include saltwater marshes, estuaries, mangroves, lagoons and even coral reefs. Fish ponds, rice paddies and saltpans are man-made wetlands.
• Wetlands, often known as ‘liquid assets’, are crucial natural resources that help stabilise water supplies, cleanse polluted waters and protect shorelines.
• 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 our main supply of freshwater comes from an array of wetlands which help soak rainfall and recharge groundwater.
• Every year, February 2 is observed as World Wetlands Day to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for our planet. This day also marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971, in Ramsar, Iran.
Criteria for identifying Wetlands of International Importance
A wetland should be considered internationally important:
1) If it contains a representative, rare, or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic region.
2) If it supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities.
3) If it supports populations of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region.
4) If it supports plant and/or animal species at a critical stage in their life cycles, or provides refuge during adverse conditions.
5) If it regularly supports 20,000 or more waterbirds.
6) If it regularly supports 1 per cent of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of waterbird.
7) If it supports a significant proportion of indigenous fish subspecies, species or families, life-history stages, species interactions and/or populations that are representative of wetland benefits and/or values and thereby contributes to global biological diversity.
8) If it is an important source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks, either within the wetland or elsewhere, depend.
9) If it regularly supports 1 per cent of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of wetland-dependent non-avian animal species.