The launch of a wetland mission, grasping an opportunity and hard work have helped Tamil Nadu emerge as a top State with the highest number of Ramsar sites in the country.
Deepak Srivastava, APCCF and Member Secretary, TN State Wetland Authority, revealed how Tamil Nadu had managed to take the top spot (along with U.P.) and the State’s plans to manage and conserve these wetlands, now of international importance.
After the launch of the wetland mission, it was decided to increase the number of Ramsar sites. “Otherwise, any expert on wetland would come and ask us why is there only one wetland with Ramsar tag when T.N. has launched a specific mission,” he said. This set the ball rolling and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), by then, had decided to increase the number of wetlands with Ramsar recognition to 75 to coincide with India’s 75th Independence Day.
“About seven to eight DFOs worked day and night along with the few staff at the mission, supervised by department secretary [Supriya Sahu]. We managed to send 13 proposals. Some in the MoEF even laughed at us for sending so many proposals. We decided to seize the moment and use the opportunity but we did not know then how hard we had to work for it,” he recalled.
Kodiakkarai was the only Ramsar site. Of the 13 proposals, nine have now now got the Ramsar tag. Four more are pending. “Any mission launched should have to achieve something very big. We decided to secure our wetlands. The Ramsar recognition is a step further to secure our wetlands. There is a huge difference between 1 and 10.”
“Ramsar secretariat is so tough and strict in scrutiny. Now, the Ramsar tag has put our wetlands under international watch. It will get funding but if the ecological conditions deteriorate further, they will put the wetlands under Montreux Record. It is an alert to us. It means if we don’t improve, they will delete it,” he said.
“We won’t let it deteriorate. Now that we have got the recognition, we will get ecosystem health card assessment reports for all the proposed 13 wetlands. We will involve all departments and restore the ecology,” he said. “It is not easy. For instance, Pallikaranai marshland will be a very big challenge but we will do it. We were losing Pallikaranai day by day. Ramsar tag will stop the degradation. Pulicat is also an important wetland, but it is a transboundary wetland sharing the border with Andhra Pradesh. We will coordinate with AP officials and get it done at the earliest,” he said.
“The bottom line is wise use of wetlands. There should not be any reduction in the flow of water into the wetland, no reduction in water quality or biodiversity, including fish or in its ground water recharge capability. Importantly, the livelihoods of the local communities should be safeguarded,” he added.
Ramsar is not only about biodiversity, it is about solving water-related problems and there should not be any conflict. “First, we are taking those in secure position without any conflicts,” he noted. “It is a government mission. The dream is to become number one. Now, T.N. has ten wetlands with the highest tag for wetlands. We will not stop here. We will work systematically to save all wetlands,” he said.