Every year February 2 is celebrated as World Wetlands Day to raise international awareness about the significant role of wetlands for people and for our planet. Wetlands play an important role in groundwater recharging and flood control. They are critical habitat for domestic and migratory birds. They fulfill the livelihood needs of nearby residents too.
What is World Wetlands Day?
This day marks the date of adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in 1971. Currently, India has 42 Ramsar designated wetlands of international importance. The Ramsar Convention definition for wetlands includes marshes, floodplains, rivers and lakes, mangroves, coral reefs and other marine areas no deeper than 6 metres at low tide, as well as human-made wetlands such as waste-water treatment ponds and reservoirs.
Wetlands are recognised as being of significant value not only for the country but for humanity as a whole. The inclusion of a wetland in the list embodies the government’s commitment to take the steps necessary to ensure that its ecological character is maintained. “The Convention includes various measures to respond to threats to the ecological character of Sites,” according to the Ramsar Convention website.
Rare birds spotted in Andhra wetlands
Many rare, uncommon and near-threatened water bird species have been sighted in the wetlands in Andhra Pradesh during the Asian Waterbird Census – 2021. There are 27 wetlands in Andhra Pradesh, and rare species of birds, which have not been seen for the last few years were noticed in Nelapattu, Kolleru and Coringa sanctuaries during the census carried out in January 2021 ahead of World Wetlands Day.
In Kolleru lake, altogether about 3 lakh birds, especially pelicans, open billed storks, painted storks and other species were found. At Uppalapadu in Guntur district, more than 25,000 birds were counted in the census. In Coringa, 34,207 birds of 102 species were counted, of which 15 were globally near-threatened bird species.
“We found peregrine falcon, oyster catcher and other uncommon waterbirds in Coringa sanctuary, and rare species such as great knot and Indian skimmer are also found in good numbers,” Mr. Selvam said. Compared to the previous census, population of migratory birds was good in Krishna, Kolleru, Coringa and other sanctuaries. Besides, kingfishers, egrets, storks, ducks, cormorants and other waterbirds were counted in large numbers.
Aquatic life thrives in wetlands of Pune
Wetlands located close to plateaus in and around Pune district have been found thriving with a variety of macrophytes, aquatic plants, showing considerable seasonal variations. Home to three rivers like Mula-Mutha, Neera and Ghod-Bhima along with numerous small and big reservoirs, Pune has 11 wetlands.
A botanist couple undertook a nine-year-long study of wetlands in the district. They recorded 67 endemic taxa (group of organisms) and labelled four to be facing some degree of threat to their existence in the region. As many as 198 out of the 457 taxa in the region have been found not susceptible to any kind of existential crisis. Newer macrophytes got accommodated in these wetlands with each passing season, a variety not observed in the riverine or wetlands in the district.
Geo-tagging of wetlands in Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand government will soon start geo-tagging of wetlands in the state for better conservation and documentation. The revenue and forest department will work together to conduct ground inspections and check the status of wetlands under the guidance of Uttarakhand Space Application Centre (USAC), according to the Hindustan Times. Mapping will help the state government track the development of the wetland, using satellite data. The state government will plan conservation policies accordingly.
Haryana recommends new Ramsar sites
The Haryana Forest and Wildlife Department will recommend two wetlands under its jurisdiction to be declared as Ramsar sites. The two wetlands to be recommended by the department are Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary near Gurgaon and Bhindawas Lake in Jhajjar district. The development came in the wake of the central government’s decision to recommend 10 Indian wetlands for recognition as Ramsar sites last year. The decision was taken during the 13th Conference of Parties to the Convention of Migratory Species and Wild Animals held at Gandhinagar in Gujarat.
Delhi govt. looking for ‘wetland mitras’
The Delhi government is looking for schoolchildren aged above 12, and others for the role of “wetland mitras” for local-level participation for conservation of wetlands. A student selected by the government can work for two years and will get a certificate from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government. This model was implemented in Kerala and saw rapid success. The idea is to increase public participation on wetlands.