India adds 10 more wetlands designated as Ramsar sites to make total 64 sites covering an area of 12,50,361 ha in the country. The 10 new sites include: Six (6) sites in Tamil Nadu and One (1) each in Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.
Previously India had added 5 wetlands to the list — Karikili Bird Sanctuary, Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest and Pichavaram Mangrove in Tamil Nadu; Pala wetland in Mizoram and Sakhya Sagar in Madhya Pradesh.
About the newly added 10 Ramsar Sites
- 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.
- Many of them are also Important Bird Areas, significant for the migratory birds on the Central Asian Flyway, getting more than 20,000 birds each year.
Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary
- A man-made wetland in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. It is the largest reserve for breeding resident and migratory water birds in South India and an ‘Important Bird and Biodiversity Area’ forming part of the Central Asian Flyway, a brief by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) states. The wetland also irrigates about 190 acres of paddy.
- Located in Goa, another addition to the list, has freshwater marshes that lie adjacent to one of the major rivulets of the Zuari river, said the brief. This enables local residents to store water during the off-monsoon season.
- The stored water is also utilised to cultivate paddy downstream of the lake and supports fishing and recreation.
- The lake is a habitat for Black-headed ibis, Common kingfisher, Wire-tailed swallow, Bronze-winged jacana, Brahminy kite, among others.
- Spread along the Mahanadi in Odisha. Established in 1976 as a wildlife sanctuary, Satkosia is the meeting point of two biogeographic regions of India; the Deccan Peninsula and the Eastern Ghats, contributing immense biodiversity.
- a mosaic of marshes and evergreen forests. The forests of these catchments play a vital role in the prevention of the gorge siltation. They also help in maintaining a desirable depth of water crucial for the endangered gharial population.
Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve (GoMBR)
- One of the most important located on the southeastern coastline.
- Extends between Toothukudi & Ramanathapuram districts.
- The Reserve is home to several globally important and highly threatened species like the Dugong, Whale Shark, Seahorses, Balanoglossus, Green sea turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Dolphins, Sacred chanks etc.
- First Marine Biosphere Reserve in South and South-East Asia. The Gulf is where the southward extension of the Bay of Bengal meets the Indian Ocean, and is one of the most biologically diverse regions in India.
- Globally threatened species include the dugong (Dugong dugon), whale shark (Rhincodon typus), green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis). The local communities are mainly Marakeyars, with fishing their main livelihood.
Vembannur Wetland Complex
- A man-made inland tank which forms the southernmost tip of peninsular India. This wetland forms part of the Important Bird and Biodiversity Area and hence part of the BirdLife International Data Zone. About 250 species of birds have been recorded in the district.
- Provides suitable habitat to several species of waterbird in the breeding and non-breeding seasons such as the Indian river tern (Sterna aurantia), the spotted greenshank (Tringa guttifer), the garganey (Anas querquedula) and the grey pelican (Pelecanus philippensis). The Site is also an excellent habitat for notable plants including Indotristicha ramosissima, Cyrtococcum longipes and Eriochrysis rangacharii.
Vellode Bird Sanctuary
- Located in the Vadamugam Vellode village in Tamil Nadu’s Erode district. Locally known as Periyakulam Yeri, it is one of the 141 prioritised wetlands in the state.
- It is an important staging and breeding ground for migratory birds on the Central Asian Flyway and also resident species such as the Indian river tern (Sterna aurantia), oriental darter (Anhinga melanogaster) and painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala).
- The Site is also an ideal habitat for notable plant species including Cayratia pedata, Tephrosia purpurea and Commelina tricolor.
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary
- One of the oldest bird-protected areas in Chengalpattu district of Tamil Nadu. This freshwater wetland is a people-protected waterbird area, the history of which goes back centuries.
- Locals have been protecting this heronry and in return benefitting from the manure-rich water from the lake.
- Presence of several species including the black-headed ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus), Eurasian spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia),
black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) and painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala). Vedanthangal is well known for nature tourism, which generates considerable revenue for the local communities.
Udhayamarthandapuram Bird Sanctuary
- Located in the Tiruthuraipoondi taluk of Tiruvarur district of Tamil Nadu. It is an important staging and breeding ground for several species of waterbirds.
- 80 kilometres from Thanjavur, about 58km from Vaduvur Birds sanctuary and 10 km from Point Calimere Birds Sanctuary.
- The Sanctuary consists of human-made irrigation tanks, interconnected by an ancient network of canals and fed by the Mettur dam through the Koraiyar canal.
- The Site is an important staging and breeding ground for several species of waterbirds. Notable species observed include the oriental darter (Anhinga melanogaster), black-headed ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus), Eurasian wigeon (Anas Penelope), Northern pintail (Anas acuta) and garganey (Anas querquedula).
Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary
- This is also the first and the only Ramsar site in Karnataka though India’s tally of such sites stands at 64.
- Also known as ‘Pakshi Kashi’ of the state.
- The bird sanctuary supports more than 1% of the world’s population of spot-billed pelicans — as against a global population of nearly 17,000, Ranganathittu supports about 1,000 of these birds.
- Similarly, it supports a high population of painted storks and mugger crocodiles besides other species of fish and hence the six islands and the water surrounding them would be part of Ramsar site.
- Aghanashini River in central Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka originates in the Western Ghats and flows westward towards the Arabian Sea. A major part of its course travels through forested gorges and valleys.
- Karnataka sought the Ramsar status also for Aghanashini estuary in Uttara Kannada, Magadi-Shettikeri tanks in Gadag and Ankasamudra in Ballari.
- It also finds a place in the Important Bird Areas (IBA) list of 42 sites in Karnataka that are identified by the Bombay Natural History Society.
- Located in the mid-stream of the Cauvery river.
- Sirpur Wetland is a human-made wetland that has stabilized and acquired near-natural characteristics in the last two centuries. Commonly named Pakshi Vihar (bird sanctuary), the Site is a shallow, alkaline, nutrient-rich lake that floods during the monsoon to a maximum depth of two metres.
- It boasts a wealth of plants and animals including threatened species: it supports some 175 terrestrial plant species, six macrophytes, 30 natural and cultured fish species, eight reptiles, and amphibians.
- Waterbirds congregate during the winter season; the Site supports 130 bird species in all, including residents and migrants such as common pochard (Aythya ferina), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and Indian river tern (Sterna aurantia).
- Sirpur Wetland provides surrounding communities with fisheries and medicinal plants, and acts as a buffer against flooding while helping to regulate the local microclimate. The local communities also accrue benefits through spiritual enrichment, recreation and education.
- The Site is yet to benefit from a management plan or a national legal conservation status.
Back to Basics
- India is a signatory to the Convention on Wetlands which was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and provides a framework for conservation of wetlands.
- The Convention has several mechanisms to guide parties designate their most significant wetlands as Ramsar Sites, and to take the steps necessary to manage them effectively by maintaining their ecological character. “Ramsar Sites are designated because they meet the Criteria for identifying Wetlands of International Importance. The first criterion refers to Sites containing representative, rare or unique wetland types, and the other eight cover Sites of international importance for conserving biological diversity. These criteria emphasize the importance the Convention places on sustaining biodiversity.
- 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.
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