In syllabus of KAS Mains – Biodiversity- its importance and concerns …

 We can give functional definition as ecotone for wetlands ie a zone of junction between two or more diverse eco systems .They are areas have intermediate character between deep water and terrestrial habitats ,generally wetlands seen between these ecosystems .

They also act as adapted habitats for plants and animals of  deep water habitats during the time of flooding.

The examples for wetlands including lake littorals ( marginal areas between highest and lowest water level of the lakes) , flood plains, and other marshy or swampy areas where water gets stagnated due to poor drainage .

They are characterized with waterlogged soil for at least 7 days during the growing season, adopted plant life ( hydrophytes) and hydric soils. Those wetlands could be areas of marsh, fen, peatland/water, whether natural or artificial, Permanent or temporary with water ie static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt even including areas of marine water ( depth of which at low tide does not exceed 6 mtrs). They are mainly classified as inland wetlands and coastal wetlands . On the basis of origin ,they are natural and man made . Natural Coastal wetlands including estuary, lagoon, creek, backwater, bay, coral reef, mangroves, tidal flat etc. Salt pans and aquaculture are two examples of man made coastal wetlands. Lakes/ Ponds, ox-bow lakes, waterlogged swamp/ marsh etc are examples of Inland natural wetlands and reservoirs, tanks including examples of man made inland wetlands.

Functions of wetlands in environment .

  •  Habitat to aquatic, flora and fauna as well as numerous specious species of birds, including migratory species.
  • Nutrients recycling
  • Water purification
  • Floods mitigation
  • Maintenance of stream flow
  • Buffer shorelines against erosion
  • Supporting specific diversity
  • Stabilization of local climate
  • Source of livelihood to local people

Wetlands in India

India has over 27000 wetlands of which over 23000 are inland wetlands while around 4000 are coastal wetlands. [Number of inland wetlands > Number of coastal wetlands]. Wetlands occupy 18.4% of the country’s area of which 70% are under paddy cultivation.

Based on origin, vegetation, nutrient status and thermal characteristics , they are classified into different categories .

  • Eg
  • Glaciatic wetlands – Tsomoriri (J&K),Chandertal (Himachal Pradesh)
  • Tectonic wetlands – Nilnag in Jammu&Kashmir,Khajjiar in Himachal Pradesh,Nainital and Bhimtal in Uttarakhand
  • Oxbow wetlands – Dal Lake, Wular Lake in Jammu & Kashmir,Loktak Lake in Manipur,Deepor Beel in Assam,Kabar        in Bihar,Surahtal in Uttar Pradesh
  • Lagoons– Chilika in Odisha,.Crater Wetlands,Lonar lake in Maharashtra

Reservoirs

  • Idukki, Hirakud dam, Bhakra-Nangal dam

Mangroves

  • Bhitarkanika in Odisha

As wetlands are areas of critical ecological significance, National wetlands conservation Programme ( NWCP) was implemented in the year 1985-86 in India ,

National wetlands conservation Programme

Under this programme, Ministry of Environment,  Forests & Climate Chang has identified 115 wetlands in 24 States and 2 Union Territories of the country for conservation and management. 26 wetlands covering an area of 689131 hectare falling in 15 States have been designated as Ramsar Sites of International Importance in India National Wetland Atlas of India – 2011.

Aim

Conservation of wetlands to prevent their further degradation and ensuring their wise use for the benefit of local communities and and overall conservation of biodiversity.

Criteria for identification of wetlands of national importance demands representative, rare and unique wetland types such as natural or near – natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic region , supports vulnerable , endangered or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities, supports plant and/ or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region, supports plant / or animal species at a critical  stage in their life .

NWCP adopted same guidelines of Ramsar convention

Ramsar Convention

  • It is an intergovernmental treaty that provides a framework for the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation.
  • The Convention, signed in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar, is one of the oldest inter- governmental accord for preserving the ecological character of wetlands.
  • Under the “three pillars” of the Convention, the Contracting Parties commit to:
    • work towards wise use of all wetlands;
    • designate suitable wetlands for the list of Wetlands of International Importance (the “Ramsar List”) and ensure their effective management;
    • cooperate internationally on transboundary wetlands, shared wetland systems and shared species.
  • Recently the  Ramsar Convention has declared 10 more wetlands in India as sites of international importance.This brings the total  number of Ramsar sites in India to 37 from 27.

Montreux record

It is the principal tool under the Ramsar Convention,is a register of wetland sites on the list of Wetlands of International importance .

It highlights those sites where adverse changes in ecological characters have occurred, are occurring or are likely to occur as a result of technological development , pollution or other human interference and which are therefore in need of priority conversation attention.it is maintained as part of the Ramsar list.

Montreux record are employed to identify priority sites for positive international and national attention.

Montreux Record in India

In 1993, Chilka lake Orissa was placed on the Montreux Report due to siltation, which was choking the mouth of the lake .The Chilka development authority received the Ramsar Wetland Conservation award for 2002 for the achievements in  rehabilitation process.

Deforestation in catchment area ,infestation of water hyacinth and pollution lead to Montreux record of Loktak lake in 1993 .Keoladeo national park  was placed due to water shortage and unbalanced grazing regime around it.

Currently, two wetlands of India are in Montreux record: Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan) and Loktak Lake (Manipur)