In 2002, Asia’s freshwater lake, Kolleru in Andhra Pradesh, was designated as Ramsar site — a wetland of international importance. Since then, the State appears to have not put any effort for getting Ramsar status for any of its other wetlands despite being blessed with wetlands that officially meet the Ramsar Convention’s (Iran-1971) nine criteria.
Godavari estuary is a case of negligence by the State to claim its international importance. The estuary, including 235.70 sq. km Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS), is one of the rarest eco-regions on the earth. It is also home to India’s second-largest mangrove cover after the Sundarbans. The CWS is inhabited by 115 endangered fishing cats ( Prionailurus viverrinus ), Olive Ridley turtles, Indian smooth-coated otter, and saltwater crocodiles.
According to the UNDP-GEF project (2019), Mainstreaming Coastal and Marine Biodiversity into Production Sectors in the East Godavari River Estuarine Ecosystem, over 43,718 birds of 272 species have been recorded in the estuary. The Ramsar Convention criterion mandates that a wetland should be considered internationally important if it regularly supports 20,000 or more water birds.
“The CWS itself meets all the nine-criteria of the Ramsar Convention to be declared as ‘wetland of international importance.”, Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife-Rajamundry) C. Celvam told The Hindu .
According to highly-placed sources in the Forest Department, prior to 2015, the Forest Department had proposed to the MoEFCC for recommending CWS as ‘Ramsar site’ under the banner of ‘EGREE Foundation’. The EGREE Foundation was formed with various stakeholders to execute the UNDP-GEF project in which government is the leading stakeholder in the project. There was no further follow up on the same past seven years.
A senior official who was earlier associated with the Ramsar proposal told The Hindu , “The application seeks further support studies and evidences. However, the State government shows no commitment to speed up the proposal. The State government also needs to pursue the proposal with the MoEFCC”.
As a result, the proposal is now gathering dust at the State government level without further pursuance by any concerned authority.
Environmentalists and Wildlife biologists are also vexed with the State government’s lack of commitment to the proposal. Wetland expert K. Mrutyumjaya Rao said that Andhra Pradesh had many great ecologically important wetlands that fall in the Asian flyway for migratory birds.