New Ramsar Sites of India


  • India has added five more Ramsar sites, or wetlands that are of international importance, bringing the number of such sites to 54, the highest for any country in South Asia.

Key Details

  • These are the Karikili Bird Sanctuary, Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest and Pichavaram Mangrove in Tamil Nadu, the Sakhya Sagar in Madhya Pradesh and Pala Wetland in Mizoram.

    New Ramsar Sites of India
    Source: Livemint
  • India’s Ramsar wetlands are spread over 11,000 sq km — around 10% of the total wetland area in the country — across 18 States. No other South Asian country has as many sites though this has much to do with India’s geographical breadth and tropical diversity.
  • The United Kingdom (175) and Mexico (142) — smaller countries than India — have the maximum Ramsar sites whereas Bolivia spans the largest area with 148,000 sq km under the Convention protection.

Definition of Ramsar Sites

  • Being designated a Ramsar site does not 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. Until 1981, India had 41 Ramsar sites though the last decade has seen the sharpest rise —13 — in designating new sites.
  • 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 Ramsar site, however, it must meet at least one of nine criteria as defined by the Ramsar Convention of 1961, 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.

Wetlands in India

  • Globally, wetlands cover 6.4 per cent of the geographical area of the world. In India, according to the National Wetland Inventory and Assessment compiled by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), wetlands are spread over 1,52,600 square kilometres (sq km) which is 4.63 per cent of the total geographical area of the country. Of the 1,52,600 sq km, inland-natural wetlands account for 43.4% and coastal-natural wetlands 24.3%.
  • Rivers/streams occupy 52,600 sq km, reservoirs/barrages 24,800 sq km, inter-tidal mudflats 24,100 sq km, tanks/ponds 13,100 sq km and lake/ponds 7300 sq km.
  • India has 19 types of wetlands. In state-wise distribution of wetlands, Gujarat is at the top with 34,700 sq km (17.56% of total geographical area of the state), or 22.7% of total wetlands areas of the country thanks to a long coastline. It is followed by Andhra Pradesh (14,500 sq km), Uttar Pradesh (12,400 sq km) and West Bengal (11,100 sq km).
  • 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.
  • Of the 54 sites, 10 are in UP, 6 in Punjab, 4 each in Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Jammu and Kashmir, 3 each in Himachal Pradesh and Kerala, 2 each in Haryana, Maharashtra, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan and one each in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Ladakh, Manipur, Tripura, Uttarakhand, among others.
  • Not every Ramsar Site is a notified protected area under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, hence systematic protection and conservation regimes might not be in place there. But a Ramsar tag makes it incumbent upon authority to strengthen the protection regime there and also creates defences against encroachment etc on wetlands.

Global leaders

  • The countries with the most Ramsar Sites are the United Kingdom (175) and Mexico (142), as per the Ramsar List. Bolivia has the largest area with 148,000 sq km under the Convention protection. Canada, Chad, Congo and the Russian Federation have also each designated over 100,000 sq km.

India’s importance in the Central Asian Flyway (CAF)

  • Dozens of species of birds of Central Asia and Siberia migrate to warmer tropical regions, including India and equatorial regions to escape harsh winter in their breeding grounds.
  • According to Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), CAF, which includes 30 countries, covers at least 279 populations of 182 migratory waterbird species, including 29 globally threatened and near-threatened species, which breed, migrate and winter within the region.
  • Wetlands in India act as foraging and resting grounds for these migratory birds during winter.

Back to basics

Ramsar Convention

  • The Ramsar Convention, which came into existence in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Reference: TH & IE

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