Two new Ramsar sites, Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat and Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary in UP were announced on World Wetlands day.
Wetlands and Ramsar sites
Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season.
They include mangroves, marshes, rivers, lakes, deltas, floodplains and flooded forests, rice-fields, coral reefs, marine areas no deeper than 6 meters at low tide, as well as human-made wetlands such as waste-water treatment ponds and reservoirs.
Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance as per UNESCO’s 1971 Convention on Wetlands held in Ramsar, Iran.
Significance of Wetlands
They regulate water quantity, groundwater recharge, and can contribute to regulating floods and the impacts of storms.
Wetlands are productive areas for plant life, animals and wetland agriculture. Compared to many other ecosystems, wetlands are one of the most productive habitats in the world.
More than 1 billion people depend on them for a living and 40% of the world’s species live and breed in wetlands.
Wetlands are the major habitat for most of the world’s waterbirds and key habitat for migratory species.
They are a vital source for food, raw materials, genetic resources for medicines, and hydropower.
Wetlands have played an important part in human development and are of significant religious, historical or archeological value to many cultures around the world.
Threats to Wetlands
Major threats: Agriculture, development, pollution and climate change.
Wetlands are disappearing 3 times faster than forests due to human activities and global warming.
According to UNESCO, the threat to wetlands will have an adverse impact on 40% of the world’s flora and fauna that live or breed in wetlands.
Status of Wetlands in India
As of February 2022, India has 49 Ramsar sites covering an area of 10,93,636 hectares, the highest in South Asia.