10 more Indian wetlands sites get Ramsar tag, number rises to 64

Six of them are in Tamil Nadu and one each in Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha

Updated - August 04, 2022 12:29 am IST

Published - August 03, 2022 10:31 pm IST - New Delhi

A glimpse of the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary.

A glimpse of the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary. | Photo Credit: VELANKANNI RAJ B.

India has added 10 more Ramsar sites, or wetlands that are of international importance, taking the number of such sites to 64, Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav said on Wednesday.

“Absolutely thrilled to inform that 10 more Indian wetlands have got Ramsar recognition as wetlands of international importance,” Mr. Yadav tweeted.

The 10 new sites — six in Tamil Nadu and one each in Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha — encompass an area of 1,51,842.41 hectares, bringing India’s total wetland area to 1.2 million hectares.

The sites are Koothankulam Bird Sanctuary, Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve, Vembannur Wetland Complex, Vellode Bird Sanctuary, Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary and Udhayamarthandapuram Bird Sanctuary, all in Tamil Nadu, Satkosia Gorge in Odisha, Nanda Lake in Goa, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary in Karnataka, and Sirpur Wetland in Madhya Pradesh.

Until 2012, India had 26 Ramsar sites, with the last decade witnessing a meteoric rise. On July 26, Mr. Yadav announced that India had added five Ramsar sites.

Ramsar wetlands now comprise around 10% of the total wetland area in the country.

Being designated one, however, doesn’t necessarily invite extra international funds but that States —and the Centre — must ensure that these tracts of land are conserved and spared from man-made encroachment. Acquiring this label also helps with a locale’s tourism potential and its international visibility.

Wetlands, according to the Environment Ministry, are an “area of marsh, fen, peatland or water; whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres, but does not include river channels, paddy fields, human-made water bodies/ tanks specifically constructed for drinking water purposes and structures specifically constructed for aquaculture, salt production, recreation and irrigation purposes”.

To be a Ramsar site, however, it must meet at least one of the nine criteria as defined by the Ramsar Convention of 1971, such as supporting vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities or, if it regularly supports 20,000 or more waterbirds or, is an important source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks are dependent upon.

The National Wetland Inventory and Assessment compiled by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), estimates India’s wetlands to span around 1,52,600 square kilometres, which is 4.63% of the total geographical area of the country. A little over two-fifths are inland natural wetlands and about a quarter are coastal wetlands. India has 19 types of wetlands. Gujarat has the maximum area followed by Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

Wetlands in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat serve as important spaces for migratory birds. Wetlands are also known to have among the highest soil-carbon densities and therefore play a major role in buffering carbon dioxide emissions.

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