Wetland Conservation Ethos - Wetlands International South-Asia

Wetland Conservation Ethos - Wetlands International South-Asia
Wetland Conservation
Wetland Conservation Ethos - Wetlands International South-Asia
Published by
Wetlands International South Asia

Dr Sidharth Kaul, President, Wetlands International South Asia
Dr Ritesh Kumar, Conservation Programme Manager

The authors acknowledge with thanks the following for valuable suggestions and text edits:
Prof C. K. Varshney, Member, Governing Body, Wetlands International South Asia
Dr Ajit Pattnaik, Vice President, Wetlands International South Asia
Prof J. K. Garg, Hony Treasurer, Wetlands International South Asia
Dr Asad Rahmani, Member, Governing Body, Wetlands International South Asia
Prof E. J. James, Member, Governing Body, Wetlands International South Asia

Design and Layout
Sugandha Menda, Kamal Dalakoti and Chandni Sahi

Wetlands International South Asia

The material in this publication can be reproduced for non-commercial purposes only with due

Available from
Wetlands International South Asia, A – 25, Second Floor, Defence Colony, New Delhi – 110024,

Suggested Citation
Kaul, S., Kumar, R. (2019). Wetland Conservation Ethos. New Delhi: Wetlands International South
Asia. pp. 64

The presentation of material in this book, and geographical designations employed do not imply
the expression of any opinion of whatsoever nature on part of Wetlands International South Asia
concerning the legal status of any country, area, territory, or concerning boundaries or frontiers.
The maps are not to scale and are for representative purposes only. Usual disclaimers apply.

Photo Credits
Wetlands International South Asia Photo Library unless specifically cited
Wetland Conservation Ethos - Wetlands International South-Asia
Glacial Wetland       Tectonic Wetland       Floodplain

   Chandertal,            Nainital,        River Yamuna at
Himachal Pradesh        Uttarakhand      Narora, Uttar Pradesh

    Ox-Bow                                 Crater Wetland

Moti and Kerari ,                              Lonar,
     Bihar                                   Maharashtra

     Tank                                      Salt Pan
  Tamil Nadu
                         Ethos              Point Calimere,
                                              Tamil Nadu

   Reservoir                              Mangrove Swamp

Nagarjuna Sagar,                            Bhitarkanika,
   Telangana                                   Odisha

    Estuary             Sandy Beach           Coral reef

  Ashtamudi,             Tarkarli,            Andamans
    Kerala              Maharashtra
Wetland Conservation Ethos - Wetlands International South-Asia
Wetlands are shallow waterbodies in which water keeps up for most part
of the year and recedes below the surface level during the dry season.
The biotic community undergoes time changes from aquatic/marshy
to mesophytic types. They are among the most productive and most
threatened ecosystems which help in society’s ecological as well as                             Dr Sidharth Kaul
economic security.                                                                                     President
                                                                               Wetlands International South Asia
 Water is life, and wetlands are the life support systems that ensure
functioning of water cycle. As ‘kidneys of landscape’, wetlands receive flows
of water and waste from upstream sources. They help stabilize water supplies, cleanse polluted waters, protect
shorelines, and recharge groundwater aquifers. The extensive food chain and biological diversity in wetlands
make them ‘biological supermarkets’. Wetlands have special attributes as cultural heritage of humanity,
and have deep connections with our beliefs and practices. Yet, these are one of the most rapidly degrading
ecosystems due to conversion for agriculture, changes in water use and availability, increasing urbanisation
and infrastructure development.

Wetlands if allowed to degrade due to intense human greed and developmental pressures will result in
human catastrophe in terms of availability of fresh water all over the globe. Due to myopic sectoral vision,
management of wetlands is not done in a systematic manner and they are being used under different names
such as lakes, marshes, swamps, estuaries, tidal flats, river floodplains, mangroves, coral reefs and several
others in diverse languages of India.

The book ‘Wetland Conservation Ethos’ has been written to remove this discrepancy in dealing with
management issues of wetlands in a holistic manner. Wetlands should be the common nomenclature for
all types of waterbodies to enable integrated and effective management of these fragile ecosystems. In its
                              pages, the reader will get a glimpse of different wetland types and forms, their
                                    significance, threats, conservation measures taken so far, gaps therein, and
                                        ways of addressing these gaps.

                                              It is expected that this publication will stimulate readers to take
                                                  decisive and result oriented action for conservation and wise
                                                     use of wetlands.
Wetland Conservation Ethos - Wetlands International South-Asia
Introduction                            7
Wetland Definitions and Forms           9
Distribution of Wetlands in India      15
Significance of Wetlands               19
Threats to Wetlands                    25
International Convention on Wetlands   31
Present Status of Wetlands             37
Integrated Wetland Management          41
Conservation and Management Efforts    49
Gaps and Future Needs                  57
Citizens and Wetlands Conservation     63
Abbreviation                           65
Glossary                               66
Wetland Conservation Ethos - Wetlands International South-Asia
A large flock of Demoiselle Cranes in wetlands of Wadwana,
Gujarat. These cranes undertake one of the toughest winter
migrations over the Himalayas, from Black Sea region to the
Indian sub-continent
Wetland Conservation Ethos - Wetlands International South-Asia

W      etlands are fragile aquatic ecosystems covered with
       water, either permanently or seasonally. They are a
vital part of the hydrological cycle, highly productive and
support rich biodiversity.

Wetlands provide a wide range of important resources
and ecosystem services, such as food, water, fiber,
groundwater recharge, water purification, flood
moderation, erosion control and climate regulation.

Wetlands enhance the aesthetic value of the landscape
and support a wide variety of recreational, social and
cultural activities. Wetlands are and will remain vitally
important for human wellbeing.

Wetlands are severely threatened due to anthropogenic
activities like reclamation through drainage and landfill,
discharge of domestic and industrial effluents and solid
wastes, changes in water inflow and outflow patterns,
excessive water withdrawal and over-exploitation of their
natural resources.

We must ensure that all wetlands are conserved and
managed sustainably not only by concerned government
agencies and NGOs but also by society at large.

This would enforce our commitment towards conservation
and wise use of these fragile ecosystems.

                                                              W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s   7
Wetland Conservation Ethos - Wetlands International South-Asia
Dip-net in Vembanad backwaters of Kerala

•   Inundation by water,
    either permanently
    or seasonally

•   At least periodically
    supports hydrophytes

•   Substrate of
    predominantly undrained
    hydric soils

8   W et l ands C o nservati o n E th o s
Wetland Conservation Ethos - Wetlands International South-Asia
and Forms

Wetlands are transitional lands          Wetlands are complex hydrological
between terrestrial and aquatic          and biogeochemical systems. They
ecosystems where the water table         are a distinct class of ecosystems
is usually at or near the surface,       between the terrestrial and aquatic
or the land is covered by shallow        ones, known as ecotones.
water permanently or seasonally.
Wetland is a generic term used           In our sectoral pursuits, often
for waterbodies and hydrological         aquatic ecosystems are referred as
entities such as lakes, rivers,          lakes, marshes, swamps, creeks,
floodplains, estuaries, marshes,         backwaters, mangroves, coral, peat,
swamps, fens, bogs, tidal flats,         bogs, fens and by other different
mangroves, corals and other related      terminologies. Basically, all these are
ecosystems.                              different wetlands types. In order to
                                         conserve and manage these aquatic
The biotic community in wetlands         ecosystems in an integrated and
changes over time from aquatic or        coordinated manner and prevent
marshy to mesophytic type. The           ad-hoc management, they need to
abundance of water at least for a part   be consistently addressed only as
of the year is the single dominant       wetlands.
factor for defining wetlands.

                          W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s               9
Wetland Conservation Ethos - Wetlands International South-Asia
Wetlands as per Ramsar
                    The Convention on Wetlands, an intergovernmental treaty          of marine water the depth of which at low tides does not
                    adopted on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar         exceed six meters’.
                    and since signed by 170 countries, defines wetlands as:
                                                                                     In addition, to protect coherent sites, Article 2.1 of the
                    ‘Areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural         Convention provides that ‘wetlands may include riparian
                    or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is        and coastal zones adjacent to the wetlands, and islands or
                    static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas      bodies of marine water deeper than six meters at low tide
                                                                                     lying within the wetlands.’

                                                                     By origin, wetlands can be classified as follows:

                                                                     Glacial Wetlands
                                                                     These include wetlands formed due to the action of glaciers, such
                                                                     as damming of rivers, scouring of valleys, the creation of pits and
                                                                     depressions and reworking of floodplains. These wetlands are exposed
                                                                     to high solar radiation during short summer duration. As these wetlands
                                                                     generally do not have drainage, they are highly saline and contain little
                                                                     vegetation. The water in these wetlands is very clear.
                    Tso Moriri, Jammu and Kashmir                    Tso Moriri in Jammu and Kashmir and Chandertal in Himachal Pradesh
                                                                     are examples of glacial wetlands.

                                                                     Tectonic Wetlands
                                                                     These wetlands are formed due to tectonic movements of earth and
                                                                     loading of high amounts of organic materials received from inflowing
                                                                     Nainital in Uttarakhand is a tectonic wetland.

                    Nainital, Uttarakhand

                                                                     Crater Wetlands
                                                                     Collision of meteorites or other extra-terrestrial objects with earth’s
Shailendra Kotian

                                                                     surface creates depressions in which crater wetlands are formed. Lonar in
                                                                     Buldhana, Maharashtra is believed to have developed in a crater created
                                                                     by meteor impact on Earth.

                    Lonar, Maharashtra

                     10    W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s
Wetland Types
                     Marine and coastal wetlands such as open coasts, coral reefs, estuaries, tidal     Often these wetland types are
                     flats, mangroves and coastal lagoons.                                              interlinked hydrologically and
                                                                                                        ecologically, merging into one
                     Inland wetlands such as permanent and seasonal rivers, inland deltas and
                                                                                                        another and the larger landscapes.
                     floodplains, permanent and seasonal lakes and ponds, marshes, freshwater           Wetlands should, therefore, be
                     swamps and peatlands.                                                              considered as part of the river
                                                                                                        basin or coastal zone.
                     Human-made wetlands such as reservoirs, barrages and dams, aquaculture
                     ponds, excavations and burrow pits, wastewater treatment ponds, irrigation
                     canals, ditches, irrigation ponds and rice fields.

Pradosh Kumar Sahu

                                                                   Oxbows are formed when the meander of a river is cut off due to silt
                                                                   deposition, or river changing course, isolating a crescent-shaped
                                                                   The basins of Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers abound in oxbows. In
                                                                   Mahanadi Delta, Ansupa is an oxbow located at delta apex.

                     Ansupa, Odisha

                                                                   These are dominated by herbaceous plants and are sustained by water
                                                                   sources other than direct rainfall like surface runoff, groundwater or tidal
                                                                   Kanwar Jheel is a marsh located in floodplains of Burhi Gandak in Bihar.

                     Kanwar, Bihar

                                                                   Swamps are wetlands dominated by trees. These have poor drainage
                                                                   and sufficient water supply to keep the ground waterlogged, and level of
David V Raju

                                                                   minerals to stimulate decay of organisms and prevent accumulation of
                                                                   organic materials. Mangroves are coastal swamps bordering major deltas
                                                                   of the country.
                                                                   Sunderbans, spread across India and Bangladesh is the world’s largest
                     Sundarbans, West Bengal                       single contiguous mangrove swamp.

                                                                                        W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s       11
                                                                 These are lands adjacent to river or stream which is subject to periodic
                                                                 inundation by water over-topping the channel.
                                                                 Yamuna floodplains are the primary source of water for Delhi.

                  River Yamuna Floodplains, Narora, Uttar

                                                                 These are peat forming freshwater wetlands and, in general, are non-
                                                                 acidic receiving nutrients from ground water sources. They are not
Frank Hoffman

                                                                 commonly found in India.

                  Drentsche Aa National Park, Balloerveld, The

                                                                 A bog is a wetland that accumulates peat, a deposit of dead plant
                                                                 material. These wetlands are unusually acidic and low in nutrients. These
Pieter van Eijk

                                                                 have high water table maintained directly by rains and snow, which in
                                                                 turn maintains waterlogging and relative oxygen levels. They are not
                                                                 commonly found in India.

                  Peatlands on Tibetean Plateau, China

                                                                 An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one
                                                                 or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the
                                                                 open sea. Estuaries form a transition zone between river and maritime
                                                                 environments. A coastal lagoon is a bar-built estuary, formed when
                                                                 offshore barrier sand islands develop above sea-level and extend in a
                                                                 chain, broken by one or more inlets.
                  Chilika, Odisha                                Chilika is a lagoon in Odisha separated from the Bay of Bengal by a long
                                                                 sand berm.

                   12     W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s
                                                Backwaters are coastal wetlands formed when the inflowing river flows
                                                are blocked by an opposing current or the flow of tides.
                                                The Malabar Coast of Kerala has several backwater areas, significant as
                                                tourist destinations of the state.

                  Vembanad, Kerala

                                                Mudflats, also known as tidal flats, are coastal wetlands that are formed
Dr Raju Kasambe

                                                by mud deposited by tides and rivers, and usually found in sheltered
                                                areas as bays and lagoons.
                                                Sewri mudfalts in Mumbai is one of the important breeding areas of

                  Sewri Mudflats, Maharashtra

                                                Coral Reefs
                                                Coral reefs are coastal wetlands characterised by reef building corals.
                                                Reefs are formed of colonies of coral polyps held together by calcium
                                                Gulf of Kachchh and Lakshwadeep in the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Mannar,
                                                Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal are the major reef
                                                areas of India.
                  Corals, Andamans

                                                Human-made Wetlands
                                                These are wetlands built for a purpose, such as storing water for
                                                irrigation and drinking, or for producing fish or for recreation. Reservoirs,
                                                aquaculture ponds, salt pans, dams, barrages, and impoundments are
                                                some examples of human-made wetlands.

                  Hirakud, Odisha

                                                                      W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s        13
Tsomgo is a high altitude wetland located in Sikkim in the Himalayan
            Region at an altitude of 3,750 m above mean sea level

14   W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s
Distribution of
Wetlands in India

Wide variations in rainfall,         Wetlands range from high altitude
physiography, geomorphology and      lakes of Himalayas, floodplains and
climate create a rich diversity of   marshes of Ganga-Brahmaputra
wetlands in India. Their structure   alluvial plains, saline flats of Great
and functions vary as per genesis,   Indian Desert to extensive marshes
hydrological regimes, substrate      and coral reefs bordering the
factors, trophic levels, turnover    country’s coastline and islands.
capacities, pollution levels and
interaction of biotic and abiotic

                         W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s           15
Tsokar, a high altitude wetland in Ladakh, is a breeding
                                                     site for the globally vulnerable Black-necked Cranes
Dibyendu Ash

                                                                                                           The floodplain of Rapti
                                                                                                           River in Uttar Pradesh

                    Wetlands in the
                 The Himalayas are dotted with
                  glaciated lakes, swamps, and                       Wetlands in the
               floodplain marshes spread across
                   Leh-Ladakh, Kashmir valley,
                                                                   Gangetic Floodplains
                 parts of Uttarakhand, Himachal                      The alluvial plains of River
                 Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal                     Ganges and the Brahmaputra
               Pradesh. These wetlands support                   have extensive riverine wetlands
                   the flow of mighty rivers like                 as floodplains and oxbow lakes.
                Ganges, Brahmaputra and Indus                    They are locally known as maun,
                    and act as a buffer between                     beel, chaur, jheel or jhabar.
                 glacial melt waters and outflow                   These wetlands sustain highly
                   to smaller river and streams.                     productive agriculture and
                     Pasturelands fringing the                   fisheries and act as flood buffers.
                  wetlands are used for grazing
                  livestock and are the home of
               several rare and endemic species                Flamingos
                  of birds, medicinal plants and               in Sambhar,
                            mammals.                           Rajasthan

                                                     Periyar was                Wetlands in the Desert
                                                     formed due to               and Semi-arid zone
                                                     construction of
                                                     Mullaperiyar                     The arid zone spanning
                                                     Dam on the                     Rajasthan and Gujarat has
                                                     Periyar River                 vast saline and monsoon fed
                                                     in Kerala, and              freshwater lakes and reservoirs.
                                                     is surrounded                The Rann of Kachchh (Gujarat)
                    Wetlands of the                  by the Periyar                 and salt lakes as Sambhar,
                    Western Ghats                    National Park                  Pachpadra, Deedwana and
                                                                                 Lukransar (Rajasthan) are some
                  The Western Ghats, one of the
                                                                                 of the characteristic wetlands of
                biodiversity hotspots of India, is
                                                                                             this part.
                criss-crossed by numerous rivers
               and streams giving rise to swamps
                   and marshes. The Myristica
                 swamps found in the region are
                  dominated by Myristica trees.

               16   W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s
Upper and                                                     Mangroves in
                                     Lower Lakes                                                   Munroe Island,
                                     (also known as                                                Ashtamudi,
                                     Bhoj wetland)                                                 Kerala
                                     are human-
                                     made tanks
                                     in Bhopal
                                     City (Madhya
    Wetlands in the                  Pradesh)                 Wetlands in the Coasts
   Deccan Peninsula                                                and Islands
  The Deccan Peninsular region                                   The narrow plains of the east
 has few natural wetlands and is                               and the west coast, and islands
mostly studded with constructed                                    harbour a range of coastal
tanks providing water for various                                  wetlands as lagoons, salt
human needs, besides serving as                                marshes, mangroves and coral
 nesting, feeding, and breeding                                 reefs. Chilika (Odisha), Pulicat
sites for a large number of birds.                            (at the border of Andhra Pradesh
                                                              and Tamil Nadu), Point Calimere
                                                                 (Tamil Nadu) and Asthamudi
                                                                  (Kerala) are major lagoons.
                                                              Mangroves are found along the
                                                               coastlines of nine states and
                                                              three union territories of India.
                                                                Sunderbans (West Bengal),
                                                                 Bhitarkanika (Odisha) and
                                                               Pichavaram (Tamil Nadu) and
                                                              Andamans are major mangrove
                                                                 Gulf of Kachchh and Gulf of
                                     Loktak is the               Mannar, and the islands of
                                     lifeline of Manipur      Lakshadweep, and Andaman and
                                     valley                   Nicobar have major reef areas in
                                                                         the country.

       Wetlands in
      the North-East                                                                               Coral reefs in
    Located at the junction of
Indian, Indo-Malayan and Indo-
Chinese biogeographic regions,
 north-east zone is considered
 the gateway of Indian floristic
   and faunistic diversity. This
  region abounds with several
  rivers, streams, lakes, ponds,
waterlogged areas and oxbows,
       especially in Assam.

                                                           W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s             17
Sasthamkotta, a large freshwater wetland of Kerala, is the
            primary source of water for Kollam City

18   W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s
of Wetlands

Wetlands are one of the most          called their ‘ecosystem services’.
important part of landscapes. Ever    These can be broadly categorised
since civilizations began, wetlands   as provisioning, regulating,
have played an important role in      cultural and supporting services.
development of human society.
The benefits wetlands provide are

                         W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s          19
Wetlands as source of water

                                                   Our main supply of freshwater comes from an array of
                                                   wetlands. Groundwater contained in aquifers accounts for
                                                   over 95% of available freshwater and is the most critical
                                                   source of drinking water and irrigation. Several wetlands help
                                                   soak rainfall and recharge groundwater.

Harike (Punjab) provides water to Southern
Punjab and Rajasthan

                                                   Wetlands as flood and storm buffers

                                                   Wetlands buffer floods and reduce droughts. In the upper
                                                   reaches of a basin, wetlands act as sponges absorbing rainfall
                                                   and snowmelt and allowing water to percolate slowly into the
                                                   soil. Floodplains of rivers serve as natural storage reservoirs
                                                   enabling excess water to spread out over a wide area reducing
                                                   its depth and speed.

                                                   Coastal wetlands like mangroves, coral reefs, mudflats and
Floods in Guwahati City of Assam would be much     estuaries can limit damaging effects of storm surges and tidal
worse if Deepor Beel and associated wetlands did   waves by acting as physical barriers. Mangroves and coastal
not absorb large parts of monsoon flows of River   marshes help bind shoreline and reduce erosion. The super
Brahmaputra                                        cyclone of Kalinga which hit Odisha in 1999 devastated the
                                                   entire coastline. It was found that villages that had retained
                                                   mangroves had lesser number of casualties as compared to
                                                   those with little or no mangroves.

                                                   Wetland products

                                                   Sustainably managed wetlands can provide a range of plants,
                                                   animals and mineral products. Nearly two-thirds of fish, one
                                                   of the primary sources of animal protein, is sourced from
                                                   coastal wetlands. Over three-fourth of rice in Asia is produced
                                                   in wetlands. Honey is collected from many mangrove
                                                   swamps, including Sundarbans. Several wetland plants have
                                                   medicinal properties. Wetlands also provide a source of
                                                   livelihood to a large population especially those inhabiting
                                                   their shorelines.

A fish catch in Loktak

 20     W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s
Wetlands as water purifiers

                                                    Wetlands help in purifying water by locking up pollutants
                                                    in their sediments and vegetation. High level of nutrients
                                                    as phosphorus and nitrogen, commonly associated
                                                    with agricultural runoff, can be significantly reduced
                                                    by wetlands. Many wetland plants can remove toxic
                                                    substances that come from pesticides, industrial discharge
                                                    and mining. Tissues of floating plants such as Water
                                                    Hyacinth, Duck weed and Azolla can store iron and copper
Kolkata city discharges nearly 600 million litres   from wastewater. However, continuous waste discharge
of wastewater daily into East Kolkata Wetlands      beyond carrying capacity of wetlands can lead to
located on its eastern periphery. This sewage is    environmental disasters.
used to produce approximately 15,000 MT of fish
and 30,000 MT of vegetables annually. The quality
of water improves after passing through these

                                                    Wetlands for recreation and tourism

                                                    The natural beauty and diversity of plant and animal life
                                                    in wetlands make them ideal destinations for recreation
                                                    and tourism. However, irresponsible tourism can create
                                                    pressures on wetlands.

Vembanad in Kerela is visited by nearly one
million tourists each year. Wetland tourism is a
significant economic activity for the state

                                                    Wetlands for education and research

                                                    Wetlands provide excellent opportunities for education
                                                    and research on aquatic ecosystems.

                                                    The diversity of habitats, the complexity of ecosystem
                                                    processes and broad social and cultural connections
                                                    make them suited for multi-disciplinary studies on nature-
                                                    society interactions.

Wetland Research and Training Centre of Chilika
Development Authority, Odisha

                                                                          W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s   21
Wetlands and Climate change

                                                    Wetlands, as several other ecosystems, are vulnerable
                                                    to climate change. These ecosystems, however, can
                                                    help mitigate and adapt to a changing climate.

                                                    Some wetlands such as mangroves and salt marshes
                                                    act as carbon stores, thereby preventing the release of
                                                    dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

                                                    As variability of water availability is likely to increase
Mangroves are known to store up to 50 times more    in future, the ability of wetlands to absorb and retain
carbon than the tropical forests                    water and moderate floods and storms are essential
                                                    functions that can help buffer impacts of climate
                                                    change. Conserving wetlands is also essential for
                                                    securing habitat of aquatic species threatened by
                                                    changing climate.

                                                    Wetlands as habitats for migratory birds

                                                    Nearly two thousand bird species make regular seasonal
                                                    movements, travelling thousands of miles between
                                                    breeding and non-breeding areas to escape the harsh
                                                    winters of the polar and temperate regions. Migrating
                                                    birds use wetlands as stopover sites for feeding, resting
                                                    and breeding. Indian wetlands connect the Central Asian
                                                    and East Australasian Flyways.
Pong (Himachal Pradesh) supports large
congregrations of Bar-headed Geese migrating from
Tibet, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia

 22    W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s
The Brow-antlered Deer resides in the floating islands
        of Keibul Lamjao National Park

A Brow-antlered Deer in Keibul Lamjao National Park, Loktak, Manipur

                 Wetlands as Biodiversity Hotspots

                 Several wetlands are habitats of a number of endemic and highly threatened to near
                 threatened species. Chilika maintains a healthy population of, and, is one of the only two
                 lagoons in the world inhabited by endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris).

                 Keibul Lamjao, a floating national park on the south of Loktak is the only known natural
                 habitat of globally endangered Brow-antlered Deer (Rucervus eldii). The largest remaining
                 populations of critically endangered Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) are found around River
                 Son, Girwa and Chambal of Central India. Over 70% of the global population of vulnerable
                 Great Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) is largely confined within the grasslands and
                 swamps of Kaziranga National Park in Assam.

                                                                       W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s   23
Encroachment of Pallikarnai marsh has rendered Chennai City
            vulnerable to floods

24   W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s
to Wetlands

Despite being the source of a range      degrade, the benefits provided
of benefits, wetlands have been          naturally by these ecosystems are
drained, filled and converted for        lost, impacting survival of species
alternate uses in almost all parts of    as well as livelihoods of dependent
the globe. Since 1900, the world has     communities.
lost around 50% of its wetlands. In
India, nearly one-third of the natural   Some of the major threats to
wetlands have been lost in the last      wetlands are discussed in this
three decades alone. As wetlands         section.

                           W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s            25
Alteration of natural hydrological regimes

                                                Water regimes govern biodiversity and ecosystem services
                                                of wetlands. Alteration of natural hydrological regimes often
                                                leads to reduced water availability, altered hydro-period, loss
                                                of connectivity with biodiversity habitats, impeded nutrient
                                                exchange and other processes which significantly enhance their

                                                The water resources development projects have played a critical
                                                role in providing water for economic use such as hydropower
Ithai Barrage on Loktak, Manipur                and agriculture. In several instances, lack of consideration of
                                                the functioning of wetlands has created adverse impacts on the
                                                aquatic habitats. Diversion of water for hydropower generation
                                                through the construction of Ithai Barrage downstream of Loktak
                                                has converted a natural floodplain wetland into a reservoir,
                                                critically affecting the habitat of the Manipur Brow–antlered
                                                Deer and near complete obstruction of migratory pathways
                                                of fish from Chindwin–Irrawaddy system. In Kashmir valley,
                                                conversion of marshes associated with Wular for agriculture has
                                                reduced the capacity of the wetland for regulating flow regimes,
                                                leading to increased floods and droughts.

                                                Catchment degradation

                                                The water holding capacity of wetlands plays a crucial role in
                                                determining its ability to regulate flow regimes, cycle nutrients
                                                and support biodiversity. Being depositional in nature,
                                                wetlands act as sediment traps, which in the long run plays a
                                                key role in their succession. However, catchment degradation
                                                accelerates sedimentation rates, thereby, risking sustenance
                                                of ecosystem processes and services. Similarly, the runoff from
                                                cropped area of the catchment loads nutrient, resulting in
Stone mining in catchment of Wular (Jammu and
                                                In Harike (Punjab), 86 percent of water holding capacity has
                                                been lost since 1954 due to excessive silt accumulation from
                                                Shivalik catchments. The resulting decline in inundation has
                                                reduced hydrological regime moderation capability of this
                                                wetland, and coupled with high levels of nutrient enrichment,
                                                promoted infestation of Eichhornia. Surajkund and Badhkal,
                                                tourist hotspots in the state of Haryana, frequently run dry on
                                                account of excessive mining in the catchments, which prevent
                                                the inflow of rainwater and recharge of groundwater critical to
                                                the maintenance of the hydrological regimes of these wetlands.

 26    W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s

                                 Increasing urbanisation without the development of
                                 adequate waste management infrastructure has led
                                 wetlands located within urban and the peri–urban areas
                                 to become waste receptacles. Agricultural intensification
                                 and the increased use of chemical fertilisers have resulted
                                 in negative impacts on the water quality within rural
                                 wetlands. For instance, most of the Gangetic floodplain
                                 wetlands are in an advanced state of eutrophication due to
                                 the discharge of untreated sewage as well as runoff from
A waste dump on Deepor (Assam)   agricultural fields.

                                 Invasive species

                                 Most of the inland wetlands of India have been invaded by
                                 exotic species, which have acquired nuisance proportions
                                 considerably influencing the native biota and habitat
                                 conditions. Water hyacinth, which was introduced in
                                 India about a century ago occurs almost throughout
                                 the country. The other dominant species that have
                                 gradually infested several wetlands are Salvinia, Ipomoea
                                 and Alternanthera. Adverse impacts of fish invasive on
                                 local biodiversity have been noted in case of Tilapia
Water hyacinth
                                 (Oreochromis mossambicus).

                                 Over-harvesting of resources

                                 Owing to high livelihood dependence, wetlands are
                                 often subjected to over–harvesting of resources and
                                 modification for enhancing provisioning services such
                                 as wood, fish, water, etc. at the cost of regulating and
                                 cultural services. Uses of harmful fishing practices, such as
                                 small mesh size nets, are prevalent in a majority of inland
                                 wetlands. Often sustainable yield for a particular wetland
                                 is not known and at times ignored by stakeholders.
                                 Wetland biodiversity and wider food webs are also put
A fisher using fine-mesh net     under stress by loss through by catch. Varying inundation
                                 regimes are often modified to suit agriculture and

                                                       W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s   27
aquaculture uses. Livelihoods of over 15,000 fishers living
                                                             around Kanwar Jheel in North Bihar have been disrupted
                                                             as dynamic inundation patterns have been transformed for
                                                             promoting permanent agriculture, which in turn, has been
                                                             impacted by lowering of ground water levels and flooding
                                                             attributed to shrinkage in wetland regimes

                                                              Unregulated tourism

                                                              Tourism is an important driver of economic growth.
                                                              Wetlands, an essential part of tourism experiences, are
                                                              likely to see an increase in touristic pressure in the times
                                                              to come. For example, backwaters of Kerala are visited by
                                                              over one million tourists annually. Accordingly, the tourism
                                                              industry ensures the livelihoods of over 85,000 households.
                                                              Often, the habitat characteristics or functioning of
                                                              wetlands are not taken into account while developing
                                                              tourism infrastructure and recreation facilities. Increase in
             House boats in Dal (Jammu and Kashmir)           houseboats in Dal (Jammu and Kashmir), and Vembanad-
                                                              Kol backwaters (Kerala) have converted tourism from a
                                                              livelihood option to threat for these fragile ecosystems.

                                                              Climate change

                                                              Global climate change has emerged as an important
                                                              driver of loss and degradation of wetlands especially high
                                                              altitude and coastal wetlands. Climate change induced
                                                              melting of glaciers has led to increased water levels of

                                                              Tso Moriri (Jammu and Kashmir) submerging habitats
                                                              utilised by migratory birds such as the Black–necked Crane
                                                              and Bar–headed Goose. Modelling simulations indicate
                                                              that about 84 percent of coastal wetlands in India are at
                                                              risk due to a one meter sea level rise. Inland wetlands
                   Gurudongmar (Sikkim)                       are at risk from alteration in hydrological regimes,
                                                              eutrophication, and algal blooms that are likely to result
                                                              from increasing temperatures.

                    28    W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s
The municipal corporation of Gurugram (Haryana) has chosen
Basai as the site for a waste treatment plant

                                                             W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s   29
Chilika (Odisha) was one of the first two Ramsar Sites
             designated by India

30   W et
       e t l and
             a n d C o nservati
                       n s e r v a t i o n E th
Convention on

Wetlands are the only ecosystem         international cooperation and
to have a dedicated multilateral        transboundary wetland issues.
environmental agreement of
their own, known as the Ramsar          Under the “three pillars” of the
Convention. The Convention was          Convention, the Contracting Parties
signed in 1971 at the Iranian city of   commit to:
Ramsar, located on the Caspian Sea      • work towards the wise use of all
shoreline. It is an intergovernmental     their wetlands;
treaty providing the framework for      • designate suitable wetlands
national action and international         for the list of Wetlands of
cooperation for the conservation          International Importance (the
and wise use of wetlands and their        “Ramsar List”) and ensure their
resources. The Convention entered
                                          effective management;
into force in December 1975.            • cooperate internationally on
                                          transboundary wetlands, shared
The Convention has 12 articles            wetland systems and shared
on conservation and wise use of           species.
wetlands including their definition,
criteria for designation of Ramsar      As on date, the 170 Contracting
sites, wise use, establishing nature    Parties have designated 2,337
reserves, research, monitoring,         wetlands with 252.05 million
management of wetland biodiversity,     hectares as Wetlands of International
                                        Importance under this Convention.

                          W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s   31
International Organization Partners
The Convention works with six global non-governmental organisations. Four of
them have been associated with the treaty since its beginnings and, in 1999, were
conferred the formal status of International Organization Partners (IOPs).

  Wetlands              IUCN –               WWF                BirdLife            International   The Wildfowl
International        International       International       International              Water        & Wetlands
   (1999)              Union for            (1999)              (1999)              Management      Trust (2015)
                     Conservation                                                     Institute
                       of Nature                                                       (2005)

Constituents of Ramsar Convention
Implementation of Ramsar                between its triennial meetings.
Convention is a partnership between     The Contracting Parties that are
Contracting Parties, the Standing       members of the SC are elected by
Committee (SC) and the Ramsar           each meeting of the CoP to serve for
Secretariat.                            three years.

The Conference of Contracting           The Ramsar Convention Secretariat
Parties (CoP) is the policy making      carries out the day-to-day
organ of the Convention. The            coordination of the Convention’s
conference enables the Contracting      activities. It is located in Gland,
Parties to hold broad ranging           Switzerland.
discussions on the implementation
of the Convention and to adopt          The Scientific and Technical Review
decisions in the form of resolutions    Panel of the Ramsar Convention was
and recommendations. Government         established in 1993 as a subsidiary
representatives from each of the        body to provide scientific and
Contracting Parties meet every three    technical guidance to the CoP, the
years to receive national reports on    SC, and the Secretariat.
the preceding triennium, approve
the work programme and budgetary
arrangements for the next three
years, and consider guidance for the
Parties on a range of ongoing and
emerging environmental issues.

The SC of the Ramsar Convention
is the intersessional executive
body which represents the CoP

 32   W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s
Ramsar Sites in India

                        W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s   33
Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan) was placed in the Montreux
Record in 1990 due to water shortage and an unbalanced grazing
regime. The invasive growth of grass Paspalum changed the ecological
character of a large area, reducing its suitability for certain waterbird
species, notably the Siberian Crane
Montreux                         In India the Ramsar Convention             the Convention. Twenty-seven
                                 entered into force on February             wetlands have been designated
Record                           1, 1982. India was a SC member             as Wetlands of International
                                 from 1993-1996 and from 1999-              Importance. Restoration of Chilika
The Montreux Record is a         2002. India has played a vital role        was recognized by the Convention
register of wetland sites        in conservation and wise use of            with a Ramsar Award in 2002.
on the List of Wetlands of       wetlands, and overall strengthening
International Importance
where changes in ecological
character have occurred,
are occurring, or are likely     Advantages of joining the Ramsar
to occur as a result of
technological developments,      Convention
pollution or other human
interference. It is maintained   •   Entails an endorsement of and          •   Brings access to expert advice
as part of the Ramsar List.          commitment to the principles               on national and site-related
                                     that the Convention represents,            problems of wetland conservation
The inclusion of wetland             facilitating the development of            and management.
within Montreux Record               national level policies and actions,
does not mean red listing            including legislation, that help       •   Encourages international
or blacklisting a wetland            nations to make the best possible          cooperation on wetland issues
site. It instead highlights          use of their wetland resources             and brings the possibility of
priority action to be taken          in their quest for sustainable             support for wetland projects.
for management of these              development.
wetlands so that further
deterioration is prevented,      •   Presents an opportunity for a
and the site restored to good        country to make its voice heard in
ecological health.                   the principal intergovernmental
                                     forum on conservation and wise
India had three wetlands             use of wetlands.
under this Record, namely
Chilika in Odisha, Keoladeo      •   Brings increased publicity
National Park in Rajasthan           and prestige for the wetlands
and Loktak in Manipur.               designated to the List of Wetlands
                                     of International Importance, and
Chilika was taken out                hence expanded possibilities of
of the Record after a                support for conservation and wise
successful restoration and           use measures.
recommendation of the
Ramsar Advisory Mission          •   Brings access to the latest
in 2002. To date, Chilika            information and advice on the
remains the only wetland             adoption of the Convention’s
in Asia to be delisted from          internationally accepted
Montreux Record.                     standards.

                                                             W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s               35
Loktak, Manipur
           Phumdi, floating mats of vegetation, are the
           characteristic feature of Loktak (Manipur)

36   W et l ands C o nservati o n E th o s
Present Status
of Wetlands

Several wetland types exhibit        wetlands and assess their extent in
large seasonal and inter-annual      the country have been made since
variations in inundation regimes     the nineteen-eighties, wherein an All
and vegetation, rendering a          India Wetland Survey was initiated by
comprehensive assessment of status   the Government of India. Measures
and trends difficult. Nonetheless,   taken to assess the extent of
efforts to create an inventory of    wetlands in the country are discussed
                                     in this section.

                        W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s          37
A Directory of           Based on a             In 1993,        Efforts to map wetlands        In 2004, the Salim Ali
  Asian Wetlands          questionnaire         WWF-India in           at national scale        Center for Ornithology
published by IUCN     survey, the Ministry     collaboration         using remote sensing       (SACON) under a UNDP
   and Wetlands          of Environment,       with MoEF&CC       techniques began in the          sponsored project
International (then    Forest and Climate        published a      nineties. The first remote     carried out a mapping
   International       Change (MoEF&CC        wetland directory    sensing based national      of inland wetlands using
     Waterfowl           then Ministry of     providing details     inventory of wetlands       23.5 m resolution data
 Research Bureau)       Environment and       of 140 wetlands.    was published in 1998 by      of IRS LISS III mostly of
    published in        Forest) published                         Space Application Center       2001. The assessment
   1989 included           a Directory of                         (SAC) using post and pre       also included data on
     a detailed         Wetlands in 1990,                           monsoon imageries of       select species groups for
   description of     listing 2,167 natural                       1992-93 (IRS LISS I and II    analyzing conservation
   92 significant     and 65,253 human-                           data). Subsequently, the            significance.
 wetlands of India.      made wetlands                             national inventory was
                          (spanning 1.45                             updated at a uniform        The SACON inland
                         million and 2.59                           scale (1:250,000) using    wetlands assessment,
                      million hectare area                           2004–05 Resourcesat        based on analysis of
                           respectively).                             AWiFS (8 m spatial        change in wetlands
                                                                   data), as per which the     areas from 71 districts
                                                                   national wetland extent      concluded that 38%
                                                                   was assessed to be 8.83     wetlands had been lost
                                                                       million hectare).         during 1992-2001.

 38    W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s
The first inventory of coastal       In 2001-02,      BNHS published         The MoEF&CC commissioned a
    habitats in India, with focus        the Center        an assessment          nation–wide wetland mapping
   on coral reefs and mangroves,        of Advanced        of existing and      project entitled ‘National Wetland
  was carried out in 1989–1991 at     Study in Marine     potential Ramsar      Inventory and Assessment’ to the
  1:250,000 and 1:50,000 scales,      Biology (CASMB)      Sites of India in    Space Application Centre (SAC) in
with maps showing high tide line      published state     2008. Nearly 140     2007. The project used a 19 wetland
 and low tide lines and wetland       of art reports on    wetlands were           type classification (including
    features such as mudflats,       17 lagoons and 15      identified as           natural as well as human–
   beach, mangroves, and coral            estuaries.      potential Ramsar       made), derived from analysis of
reefs. Since then, several remote                               sites.           RESOURCESAT I LISS III data of
 sensing assessments have been                                                 2006–07 at 1:50,000 scale (with 23.5
   carried for the Indian coast,                                                 m resolution) for pre–monsoon
 results published in the form of                                                and post-monsoon periods. The
  National Wetlands Atlas based                                                 atlas, for the first time, included a
  on analysis of satellite images                                               separate category of high altitude
   of 2006-07, shoreline change                                                 wetlands (wetlands located above
assessments reports, an atlas of                                                           3,000 m amsl).
 mangroves and coral reefs and
           other products.                                                      As per the atlas published in 2011,
                                        In 2006, the                             the national extent of wetlands
                                      CASMB updated                              was assessed to be 15.26 million
                                           existing                            hectare, equivalent to 4.63 percent
                                         inventories                               of the country’s geographical
                                          to include                             area. Inland wetlands (including
                                      information on                              wetlands below the minimum
                                      2,692 wetlands.                             mapping unit of 2.25 hectare)
                                     Natural wetlands                          constitute 69 percent (10.56 million
                                     were estimated to                          hectare) of the total wetland area.
                                     span 3.58 million                          High altitude wetlands have been
                                        hectare, and                           assessed to extend 126,249 ha. The
                                     human-made 3.33                            state of Gujarat has the maximum
                                      million hectare.                         wetland area (3.47 million hectare).

                                                             W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s        39
Pelicans flying over Gosabara - Mokarsar (Gujarat)

40   W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s

Wetlands need to be managed in        measures should take into
a manner that their biodiversity is   account wetland catchments and
conserved, and the benefits humans    coastal zones, as well as integrate
derive from these ecosystems are      socioeconomic development of
maintained for long-term. The         wetland-dependent communities. A
management needs to be holistic,      range of activities is required for this
multidisciplinary, and based on the   purpose which is discussed in this
scientific knowledge. Conservation    section.

                         W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s              41
Integrated management                   Institutional mechanisms
                                        Conserving and managing
Wetlands need to be managed             wetlands requires collaborative
on the basis of an integrated plan      efforts between various sectors
resulting from systematic review        and agencies. It is therefore
of wetland features and governing       essential to create institutional
factors. Diagnostic processes           mechanisms for intersectoral
should be used to identify causative    collaboration, through a nodal
factors for wetland degradation.        agency. State governments
Management goals and objectives         have been advised to constitute
should be defined clearly, and          Wetlands Authorities so that
suitable monitoring and evaluation      expertise is available in all desired
systems put in place. Stakeholders      departments for execution of
should review the plans through         management plans in a scientific
consultative processes. All forms       and cohesive manner.
of information – scientific and
traditional need to be factored in
while preparing these plans.            Wetlands inventory

                                        Wetlands inventory is crucial
Capacity development                    for setting policy priorities
                                        and targeting conservation
Wetland management requires             efforts. The MoEF&CC has
specialised skills. Building the        commissioned several wetlands
capacity of managers through            inventories to improve the overall
training and related activities         knowledgebase on wetland
can strengthen integrated               status and extent. The Wetlands
management. Capacity                    (Conservation and Management)
development efforts should cut          Rules, 2017 require that states
across all sections of society. Need-   prepare inventories of wetlands
based training programs can be          within their jurisdiction, and
organised at national, regional or      prioritise them for regulation
district levels. Training on dominant   and management. Preparation of
themes of wetland conservation          brief documents for notification
like catchment area treatment,          requires geographic delineation of
water management, pollution             the wetland, its zone of influence,
abatement, livelihood options,          and an account of preexisting
restoration techniques, biodiversity    rights and privileges, consistent or
conservation, sustainable resource      not consistent with the ecological
development, managing invasive          health of wetlands. Survey,
species, environmental education        mapping and inventorisation need
and awareness, impact assessment        to take into consideration impact
of developmental activities             of developmental activities on
surrounding wetlands can be             wetland and its catchment. It is
of great help in implementing           vital to confirm remote sensing
activities of management plans.         data with adequate ground

 42    W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s
truthing. Inventorisation is an        Making the value of wetlands
ongoing activity and can be of         visible to society creates an
great help once higher resolution      evidence base for more targeted
imageries are available so that even   and cost–effective solutions. In
smaller wetlands of less than 2        the recent times, several methods
hectare are mapped.                    for valuing wetlands in economic,
                                       ecological, and social terms have
                                       been developed. These can be used
Valuing wetlands                       by wetland managers to express
                                       the contribution of wetlands to
As public goods, a broad category      developmental decisions, and
of wetland ecosystem services          quantify impacts of wetland loss.
and biodiversity values are not
factored in decision-making,
thereby resulting in wetlands          Community participation
being converted for alternate
uses. The resultant loss has direct    Wetlands affect lives and livelihoods
economic consequences, which are       of a range of stakeholders. It is
underestimated.                        important to seek their engagement
                                       in all stages of management.

                         W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s    43
This can be achieved through              governments can be examined at this
consultations, involvement in design      level from a feasibility perspective.
and implementation of management
plans and monitoring. An enabling         An advisory body consisting national
role can be played by policy planners,    experts in specialized fields can guide
managers, research organizations,         managers in executing all activities
NGOs and CSOs towards creation            in a desired manner. Within states,
of a common platform wherein              monitoring is the responsibility of the
community concerns for wetlands are       State Wetlands Authorities. At District
discussed and appropriately factored      levels, monitoring may be entrusted
in management.                            to a team of experts, capable
                                          of assessing conservation and
Participatory Rural Appraisals and        livelihood outcomes of management
community consultation can be used        plans.
to leverage traditional knowledge
into design of interventions.             Synergies within
Issues of gender sensitization            international conventions
and involvement of women in               and multi-lateral
decision making processes need            agreements
prioritization. Engagement is also
aimed at enhancing the awareness          Apart from the Ramsar Convention,
of communities and stakeholders on        there are several international
values of wetlands and the need for       conventions, and multi-lateral
their integrated management.              environmental agreements wherein
                                          the Contracting Parties have made
                                          commitments related to wetlands
Monitoring and review                     conservation. Notable amongst
                                          these are Convention on Biological
Wetlands need to be continually           Diversity, Convention on Migratory
monitored to assess their health and      Species, United Nations Convention
functioning. This should not be limited   to Combat Desertification, World
to monitoring status of plant and         Heritage Convention, UNESCO Man
animal life alone. Exchange of water,     and Biosphere programme, United
sediment and nutrients; the status of     Nations Sustainable Development
catchments, as well as sustainability     Goals, United Nations Framework
of wetland resources need to be           Convention on Climate Change and
monitored. Monitoring of climatic and     the Sendai Framework for Disaster
geophysical parameters is required to     Risk Reduction.
identify long-term changes.
                                          There is a need to coordinate
A three-tier system at national, state    national implementation of these
and district level may need to be         Conventions and agreements for
created for assessing the effectiveness   achieving synergistic outcomes.
of management plans. At the national      Coordination efforts should also be
level, advice on appropriate policy,      made at state levels, wherein much
research and capacity development         of direct action is implemented.
aspects may be made. Management
plans recommended by the state

 44    W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s
Blackbucks in Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary
(Tamil Nadu)

                                                  W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s   45
Wetlands and the Sustainable Development Goals

                                                    Source: Ramsar Convention

46   W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s
Asan (Uttarakhand) is a community reserve

                                            W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s   47
Tso Moriri, a high altitude wetland in Changthang
            Plateau is a Ramsar site

48   W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s
Conservation and
Management Efforts

Wetland conservation draws             its Article 51–A (g) stating that “it
strength from India’s rich legacy      shall be the duty of every citizen
of environmental conservation          of India to protect and improve
enshrined in various policies,         the natural environment including
legislations and regulatory            forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife
regimes. The Indian Constitution       and to have compassion for living
encapsulates this spirit, notably in   creatures.”

                          W et l and C o nservati o n E th o s             49
Efforts by national and state governments

Wetland conservation and                   network of sites of national and
sustainable management are placed          international significance includes
within the mandate of MoEF&CC.             250 wetlands.
Several broad ranging policies,
strategies and action plans have           The regulatory framework for
been formulated by the Government          wetlands is defined within the
which directly or indirectly supports      broader national environment
wetland conservation.                      policy. The National Conservation
                                           Strategy and Policy Statement on
Wetlands were initially conserved          Environment and Development
primarily for their biodiversity values,   (1992) identified pollution and over–
and several landscapes such as             exploitation of wetlands as an area
Keoladeo, Harike, Kaziranga and            of concern. Conservation of wetlands
Manas were notified as protected           was emphasized as a strategy for
areas.                                     sustainable use of land and water
                                           resources as well as biodiversity
With India becoming a signatory to         conservation. Subsequently, the
the Ramsar Convention in 1982, and         National Environment Policy
MoEF&CC (the then MoEF) being              (2006) laid down specific policy
established in 1985, a national            elements for wetlands. Wetlands
programing framework for wetlands          have been identified as components
was institutionalised. MoEF&CC             of ‘freshwater resources’, and the
established the National Wetland           recommended policy actions include
Conservation Plan (NWCP) in 1986           integration in developmental
to provide overarching policy              planning, management based on
framework and financial assistance         prudent use strategies, promotion of
to the state governments for               ecotourism, and implementation of a
implementation of site management          regulatory framework. Integration of
plans. Mangroves and coral reefs           wetlands in river basin management
were initially covered under NWCP          has been identified as a strategy for
but were later bifurcated as a             the management of river systems.
separate programme. In 2001,
the National Lake Conservation             In 2010, a regulatory framework
Programme (NLCP) was carved out of         for wetlands was introduced by
NWCP to address pollution issues in        MoEF&CC in the form of Wetland
urban and semi–urban waterbodies           (Conservation and Management)
through interception, diversion            Rules, 2010 under the provisions of
and treatment of pollution load. In        the Environment (Protection) Act,
2013, and the two schemes were             1986. The rules have been further
merged into the National Plan for          revised and notified as Wetlands
Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems         (Conservation and Management)
(NPCA) to enable adoption of               Rules, 2017. Key features include
integrated approaches. Wetlands            constitution of State Wetlands
located within Protected Areas are         Authorities and National Wetlands
covered under the Ministry’s scheme        Committee at the national level,
Integrated Development of Wildlife         and wise use as a framework for
Habitats. As of December 2017, the         regulating wetlands.

 50    W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s
The diverse wetlands of Mahanadi   Provisions of the Indian Forest          In line with the CBD Strategic Plan
Delta, Odisha                      Act, 1927 and the Indian Wildlife        2011–2020, India has formulated
                                   (Protection) Act, 1972 define the        12 National Biodiversity Targets.
                                   regulatory framework for wetlands        Wetlands find direct reference under
                                   located within forests and designated    Target 3 (Strategies for reducing rate
                                   protected areas. Similarly, coastal      of degradation, fragmentation and
                                   wetlands are protected under the         loss of natural habitats are finalized
                                   Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)            and actions put in place by 2020),
                                   Notification (2011 recently modified     Target 6 (ecologically representative
                                   in 2018) and the Island Protection       areas on land and in inland waters,
                                   Zone (IPZ) Notification 2011. The        as well as coastal and marine
                                   Indian Fisheries Act, 1897, The Water    zones, especially those of particular
                                   (Prevention and Control of Pollution)    importance for species, biodiversity
                                   Act, 1974, The Environment               and ecosystem services, are
                                   (Protection) Act, 1986 and The           conserved effectively and equitably),
                                   Biological Diversity Act, 2002 provide   and Target 8 (by 2020, ecosystem
                                   substantive legal and regulatory         services, especially those related to
                                   conditions for conservation of Indian    water, human health and livelihoods
                                   wetlands. The Coastal Aquaculture        and well–being are enumerated and
                                   Authority Act, 2005 prohibits the        measures to safeguard them are
                                   conversion of natural coastal            identified).
                                   wetlands such as mangroves, salt
                                   pans, estuaries and lagoons for          Wetlands also find a place in sectoral
                                   aquaculture.                             policies for water and climate
                                                                            change. The National Water Policy

                                                             W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s      51
(2012) provides an important policy                 an advisory on conservation and        designated areas. Similarly, the East
framework for linking wetlands to                   restoration of waterbodies in urban    Kolkata Wetlands (Conservation
water resources management. The                     areas.                                 and Management) Act, 2006 curtails
policy recommends adoption of a                                                            landuse changes within the Ramsar
basin approach for water resources                  The National Action Plan for Climate   Site. In Kerala, the Conservation
management, and identifies                          Change has identified eight missions   of Paddy Land and Wetland Act,
conservation of river corridors,                    which form the core intervention       2008, bans conversion of wetlands.
waterbodies and associated                          strategy for climate change            In 2015, the state governments of
ecosystems as important action                      mitigation and adaptation. Wetland     Karnataka and Rajasthan have enacted
areas. Ministry of Water Resources,                 conservation and sustainable           legislations for conservation of
River Development and Ganga                         management is included in the          wetlands.
Rejuvenation (MoWRRD) has several                   National Water Mission and Green
programmes that contribute to                       India Mission.                         In collaboration with national and
wetland conservation. The MoWRRD                                                           international organisations, the
also coordinates implementation                     Several state governments (notably     Ministry has published several
of “National Project for Repair,                    West Bengal, Odisha, Kerala, Manipur   documents on various aspects of
Renovation & Restoration (RRR)                      and Assam) have also enacted           wetlands (for example, monographs
of Waterbodies directly linked to                   their legislation on wetlands. The     on wetlands published with WWF-
Agriculture” since January 2005. The                Government of Manipur notified the     India). Guidelines for application
programme supports restoration and                  Manipur Loktak Lake (Protection)       oriented research and development
augmentation of storage capacities                  Act, 2006 and Manipur Loktak Lake      have been published and assistance is
of waterbodies, including recovery                  (Protection) Rules, 2008, which        given to select research organisations
and extension of their lost irrigation              define a core zone and buffer zone,    to provide, in time series, a robust
potential. In 2013, the Ministry of                 and stipulate specific activities      research database on wetlands.
Housing and Urban Affairs has issued                that can be permitted within these

Wetland Interpretation Center at Chilika (Odisha)

 52     W e t l a n d Co n s e r vat i o n E t h o s
You can also read
NEXT SLIDES ... Cancel