What are Wetlands?
Wetlands are a distinct, most biologically diverse ecosystem where oxygen-free processes prevail. It is saturated with water either seasonally or permanently. Their primary distinguishing factor is the characteristic vegetation of unique plants and aquatic animals adapted to their hydric soil. Wetlands naturally occur on every continent. Wetlands play a important role in maintaining the hydrological cycle and flood control.
UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and RAMSAR Convention described wetlands as a whole to be of biosphere significance and societal importance in many areas. To replace these wetland ecosystem services, we would need to spend an enormous amount of money on water purification plants, dams, levees, and other complex infrastructure. Many of the benefits would still be impossible to replace.
What are RAMSAR Wetland sites?
The RAMSAR Convention is an international treaty established in 1971 by UNESCO and came into force in 1975. It aims for the conservation of global biological diversity and sustainable utilization of wetlands around the world that are of international importance, aiming at developing an international network of wetlands and identifying the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands and their value on economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational grounds. India has become a part of this convention on 1st February 1982. On 2nd February 2021, India has set up its first center for Wetland Conservation and Management in Chennai. The day also marks the 50th anniversary of the RAMSAR Convention.
Currently, there are over 2400 RAMSAR sites all over the world, covering a surface area of 2.5 million sq. kilometers. Among 2400, 42 RAMSAR sites are in India, covering a surface area of 1,081,438 hectares, which is the highest in South Asia. The first RAMSAR sites in India are Chilika Lake (Orissa) and Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan). The largest being the Sundarbans and the smallest is Renuka Wetland in Himachal Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh has the more number of RAMSAR sites in India, counting to 8. Let us discuss them in detail.
1.Chilika Lake (229)
Stretching over 116,500-hectare, Chilika lake is a Brackish lake located in Orissa, separated from the Bay of Bengal by a long sandy ridge and subject to seawater exchange, resulting in extreme seasonal fluctuations in salinity in different sections of the lake.
2.Keoladeo National Park (230)
It is located in Rajasthan and stretches over 2,873-hectares. It is a National Park and a Bird Sanctuary. It was added to the Montreux Record, 4th July 1990 as a World Heritage Site. A complex, often artificial, seasonal lagoons, varying in size, situated in a densely populated region.
3.Wulvar Lake (461)
It is located in Jammu & Kashmir, covering an area of 18,900-hectares. It is the largest freshwater lake in India, with extensive marshes of emergent and floating vegetation.
4.Harike Lake (462)
Located in Punjab and stretching over 4,100-hectare, it’s a lake, a Bird Sanctuary, a shallow water reservoir with thirteen islands, where two rivers meet.
5.Loktak Lake (463)
Located in Manipur and stretching over an area of 26,600-hectares, it is a large but shrinking freshwater lake and associated swamplands supplied by several streams.
6.Sambhar Lake (464)
Located in Rajasthan and stretching over an area of 24,000-hectares, it is a large saline lake fed by four streams set in a shallow wetland and subject to seasonal fluctuations. It is surrounded by sand flats and dry thorn scrub and fed by seasonal rivers and streams.
Located in Punjab, Kanji stretches over an area of 183-hectares. A permanent stream, the Kali Bein, was converted by the construction of a small barrage in 1870 into a water storage area for irrigation purposes.
It is a National Wetland located in Punjab and stretches over 1,365-hectares. It is a human-made wetland of lake and river formed by the 1952 construction of a barrage for diversion of water from the Sutlej River for drinking and irrigation supplies.
9.Ashtamudi Wetland (1204)
Stretching over 6140-hectare, it’s the second-largest extensive estuarine system in the state of Kerala. It is of extraordinary importance for its hydrological functions, biodiversity, and its support for fish.
10.Bhitarkanika Mangroves (1205)
It’s a Wildlife sanctuary in Orissa, stretching over 65,000-hectares. It has one of the finest remains of mangrove forests along the coast of India. As a result of 25 years of continued conservation measures, it is one of the best wildlife sanctuaries.
11.Bhoj Wetland (1206)
It is located in Madya Pradesh and stretching over 3201-hectares, made of two contiguous human-made reservoirs- the upper lake constructed in the 11th century and the lower one was constructed at least 200 years ago, as a result of leakage from the upper. It is surrounded by the city of Bhopal.
12.Deepor Beel (1207)
It is a permanent freshwater lake located in Assam, in a former channel of Brahmaputra, to the south of the main river, stretching over 4,000-hectare. It is of great biological importance and is the only major stormwater storage basin for the city of Guwahati.
13.East Calcutta Wetlands (1208)
These wetlands are located in West Bengal, stretching over 12,500-hectare. They are world-renowned as a model of a multiple-use wetland developed by local people through the ages. The site’s resource recovery systems have saved the city of Calcutta from the costs of constructing and maintaining wastewater treatment plants.
14.Kolleru Lake (1209)
It is Wildlife Sanctuary located in Andhra Pradesh and covers an area of 90,100-hectares. It’s a naturally eutrophic lake situated between two major river basins of Godavari and Krishna, feeding on two seasonal rivers and a number of drains and channels.
15.Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary (1210)
This Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary, located in Tamil Nadu and stretching over 38,500-hectares, is a coastal area consisting of shallow waters, shores, and long sand bars, intertidal flats, and intertidal forests, chiefly mangrove, and seasonal, often-saline lagoons, as well as human-made salt exploitation sites.
16.Pong Dam Lake (1211)
It is a water storage reservoir located in Himachal Pradesh and covering 15,662-hectares, created in 1975 on the Beas River in the low foothills of the Himalaya on the northern edge of the Indo-Gangetic Plain.
17.Sasthamkotta Lake (1212)
It is a large freshwater lake in Kerala, stretching over 373-hectares, in the southwest of the country, spring-fed and the source of drinking water for half a million people in the Kollam district.
This Wetland Reserve is located in Jammu & Kashmir and covers an area of 12,000-hectares. A freshwater to brackish lake lying at 4,595m above sea level, with wet meadows and borax-laden wetlands along the shores.
19.Vembanad-Kol Wetland (1214)
Located in Kerala and stretching over 151,250-hectares, this wetland is the largest brackish, humid tropical wetland ecosystem on the southwest coast of India, fed by ten rivers and typical of large estuarine systems on the western coast.
20.Chandertal Wetland (1569)
Located in Himachal Pradesh and stretching over 49-hectare, Chandertal Wetland is a high-altitude lake on the Upper Chandra Valley flowing to the Chandra river of the Western Himalayas near the Kunzam pass joining the Himalayan and Pir Panchal ranges.
21.Hokera Wetland (1570)
Stretching over 1,375-hectare, this wetland is located in Jammu & Kashmir at the northwest Himalayan biogeographic province of Kashmir, back of the snow-draped Pir Panchal.
22.Renuka Wetland (1571)
This wetland is located in Himachal Pradesh and stretches over an area of 20-hectares. It is a Wildlife sanctuary, Reserve-forest and a natural wetland with freshwater springs and inland subterranean karst formations, fed by a small stream flowing from the lower Himalayan out to the Giri river.
23.Rudrasagar Lake (1572)
It is a lowland sedimentation reservoir in the northeast hills of Tripura, stretching over 240-hectares and fed by three perennial streams discharging to the River Gomti.
24.Surinsar-Mansar Lakes (1573)
Located in Jammu & Kashmir and stretching over 350-hectares, this wetland of Surinsar-Mansar Lakes is a Wildlife Sanctuary and a Hindu sacred site. It’s a freshwater composite lake in semi-arid Punjab Plains, adjoining Jhelum Basin. Surinsar is rain-fed without permanent discharge, and Mansar is primarily fed by surface run-off.
25.Upper Ganga River (1574)
Located in Uttar Pradesh and stretching over 26,590-hectares, this wetland is a shallow river stretch of the great Ganges with intermittent small stretches of deep-water pools and reservoirs upstream from barrages.
It is a Bird Sanctuary located in Gujarat, stretching over 12,000-hectares, and a natural freshwater lake that is the largest natural wetland in the Thar Desert Biogeographic Province and Represents a dynamic environment with salinity and depth varying depending on rainfall.
27.Sundarban Wetland (2370)
This wetland is located within the largest mangrove forest in the world and encompasses hundreds of islands and a maze of rivers, rivulets, and creeks in the delta of the Rivers Ganges and Brahmaputra on the Bay of Bengal in India and Bangladesh.
28.Nangal Wildlife Sanctuary (2407)
Located in the Shiwalik foothills of Punjab and covering 116-hectares, it is the highly eco-sensitive Sanctuary. It supports abundant flora and fauna, including threatened species.
29.Beas Conservation Reserve (2408)
It’s a 185-kilometer stretch of Beas River primarily located in the northwest of Punjab. The river flows down from the Himalayan foothills to the Harike Headworks, where its course divides into different channels.
30.Sandi Bird Sanctuary (2409)
This Bird Sanctuary is a freshwater marsh in the Hardoi district of Uttar Pradesh. The wetland is typical of the Indo-Gangetic plains and receives most of its water from monsoon rains.
31.Nandur Madhameshwar (2410)
Located in Maharashtra and covering about 1,437-hectares, this site is a mosaic of lakes, marshes, and riparian forest on the Deccan Plateau.
32.Sarsai Nawar Jheel (2411)
It is a permanent marsh in the Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh. Stretching over 161.3-hectares, this wetland is typical of the Indo-Gangetic floodplain and fed by preci[itation run-off from the southwest monsoon rains.
33.Nawabgang Bird Sanctuary (2412)
A shallow marshland located 45 kilometers from Lucknow, UP. This diverse wetland feeds on Monsoon rains while the Sarda Canal supplies additional water.
34.Saman Bird Sanctuary (2413)
This Bird Sanctuary is located in the Mainpuri district of Uttar Pradesh and stretches over 526.3-hectares. It is a seasonal oxbow lake on the Ganges floodplain. It is heavily reliant on the arrival of the south-westerly monsoon in July and August, which provides the vast majority of annual rainfall.
35.Keshopur-Miani Community Reserve (2414)
It is located in the state of Punjab and covers over 343.9-hectares of area. It is a mosaic Reserve of natural marshes, aquaculture ponds, and agriculture wetlands maintained by the annual rainfall run-off.
36.Samaspur Bird Sanctuary (2415)
This Bird Sanctuary is located in the Raebareli district of Uttar Pradesh and stretches over 799.4-hectares. It is a perennial lowland marsh typical of the Indo-Gangetic Plains, connected with six lakes that are heavily relevant on monsoon rains.
37.Parvati Arga Bird Sanctuary (2416)
It is a permanent freshwater environment consisting of two oxbow lakes. These wetlands are located in Uttar Pradesh and cover an area of 722-hectares.
38.Kabartal Wetland (2436)
Also known as Kanwar Jheel, covering 2,620-hectares of the Indo-Gangetic plains in the northern Bihar State. It is one of 18 wetlands within an extensive floodplain complex.
39.Asan Conservation Reserve (2437)
It’s a 444-hectare stretch of the Asan River running down to meet Yamuna River in the Dehradun district of Uttarakhand.
40.Sur Sarovar (2440)
Also known as Cheetham Lake, it is a human-made reservoir originally created to supply water to the city of Agra in summer, soon became an important and rich ecosystem.
41.Lonar Lake (2441)
This is a wetland situated on the Deccan Plateau. It is an endorheic or closed basin almost circular in shape, formed by a meteorite impact onto the basalt bedrock. The site includes the lake as well as escarpments, which form the crater walls and forested zones.
42.Tso Kar (2443)
It is a high-altitude wetland complex found at more than 4,500 meters above sea level in the Changthang region of Ladakh. The complex includes two connected lakes, the freshwater Startsapuk Tso and the larger hypersaline Tso Kar.