TOPIC – I RAMSAR SITES IN INDIAThe Convention on Wetlands of International Importance adopted at Ramsar, Iran in Feb. 1971, popularly known as Ramsar Convention, aims to preserve and protect wetland ecosystems together with dependent water bird species and make the wise use of wetlands for the benefit of people.
Wetlands cover 3% of the Indian landmass and harbour a vast variety of life forms that are a part of the complex food of these transitional ecosystems. About 320 species of birds are associated with the Indian Wetlands. Apart from birds, the wetlands support a diverse population of plants and animals including 150 species of amphibians.
Wetlands are basically wet lands where the soil is saturated with water for at least sometime during the year. Wetlands occupy the transitional zone between permanently wet and generally dry environments, which include a variety of habitats ranging from peat bogs to mangrove forests, ponds and marshes to floodplains and riparian swamps, shallow lakes and margins of large reservoirs to salt lakes, and brackish lagoons, estuaries and coastal salt marshes. The oases in deserts, extensive beds of marine algae and coral reefs are also wetlands.
The economic benefits of wetlands are evident in such values as water supply, through the maintenance of its quantity and quality; fisheries; agriculture, through the maintenance of water tables; grazing; timber production; energy resources, such as peat and plant matter; transport; and recreation and tourism opportunities. Wetlands also nurture and provide sustenance to biological diversity, as is evident from the concentrations of birds (especially waterfowl), mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrate species, as well as countless plant species that they support. Another is their association with open landscapes, wildlife, local traditions, etc.
Since signing this convention in 1982, India has till date designated 25 wetlands as Ramsar sites.
Included on 19/08/02, located in Madhya Pradesh, is two contiguous human-made reservoirs – the ‘Upper Lake’ was created in the 11th century by construction of an earthen dam across the Kolans River, and the lower was constructed nearly 200 years ago, largely from leakage from the Upper, and is surrounded by the city of Bhopal. The lakes are very rich in biodiversity, particularly for macrophytes, phytoplankton, zooplankton, both natural and cultured fish species, both resident and migratory birds, insects, and reptiles and amphibians. A number of bird species have been sighted which had rarely or never before been seen in the region since last couple of years.
Included on 22/01/02 in Punjab is a permanent stream, the Kali Bein, converted by construction of a small barrage in 1870 into a water storage area for irrigation purposes. The site fulfils Criteria 3 because of its importance in supporting a considerable diversity of aquatic, mesophytic, and terrestrial flora and fauna in the bio-geographical region, and acts also as a key regulator of groundwater discharge and recharge with the seasons. By this means and by direct abstraction of water for irrigation by the local population, the site plays a crucial role in the agriculture which predominates on the surrounding fertile plain, with fewer pressures upon water supplies than elsewhere in the Punjab.
Included on 23/03/90, located in Punjab, is a shallow water reservoir with thirteen islands, at the confluence of two rivers. Dense floating vegetation covers 70% of the lake. An important site for breeding, wintering and staging birds, supporting over 200,000 Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans, etc.) during migration.
Included on 19/08/02, is an extensive estuarine system, the second largest in Kerala State, which is of extraordinary importance for its hydrological functions, its biodiversity, and its support for fish. The site supports a number of mangrove species as well as over 40 associated plant species, and 57 species of birds have been observed, including six that are migratory. Nearly 100 species of fish are to be found in this area.
WETLANS IN INDIA
Included on 19/08/02, located in Assam, is a permanent freshwater lake in a former channel of the Brahmaputra river, of great biological importance and also essential as the only major storm water storage basin for the city of Guwahati. The beel is a staging site on migratory flyways and some of the largest concentrations of aquatic birds in Assam can be seen, especially in winter. Some globally threatened birds are supported, including Spot-billed, Lesser and Greater Adjutant Stork, and Baer‘s Pochard.
Included on 01/10/81, located in Orissa, is a brackish lake separated from the Bay of Bengal by along sandy ridge and subject to sea water exchange, resulting in extreme seasonal fluctuations in salinity in different sections of the lake. Saline areas support aquatic algae. The site is an important area for breeding, wintering and staging for 33 species of water birds. It also supports 118 species of fish, including commercially important species.
Included on 19/08/02, located in Andhra Pradesh, is a natural eutrophic lake, situated between the two major river basins of the Godavari and the Krishna, fed by two seasonal rivers and a number of drains and channels, which functions as a natural flood balancing reservoir between the deltas of the two rivers. It provides habitat for a number of resident and migratory birds, including declining numbers of the vulnerable Grey Pelican, and sustains both culture and capture fisheries, agriculture and related occupations of the people in the area.
Keoladeo National Park
Included on 01/10/81, located in Rajasthan, is a World Heritage Site and has complex often artificial, seasonal lagoons, varying in size, situated in a densely populated region. Vegetation is a mosaic of scrub and open grassland that provides habitat for breeding, wintering and staging migratory birds. Also supported are five species of ungulates, four species of cats, and two species of primates, as well as diverse plants, fish and reptiles. The canal provides water for agriculture and domestic consumption. Cattle and water buffalo graze on the site.
Included on 19/08/02, located in Orissa, is one of the finest remaining patches of mangrove forests along the Indian coast – 25 years of continued conservation measures have made the site one of the best known wildlife sanctuaries. The site’s Gahirmatha beach is said to host the largest known Olive Ridley sea turtle nesting beach in the world, with half a million nesting annually, and the site has the highest density of saltwater crocodile in the country, with nearly 700 Crocodylus porosus. It is a major breeding and watering place for many resident and migratory water birds and is the east coasts major nursery for brackish water and estuarine fish fauna. Like many mangrove areas, the dense coastal forests provide vital protection for millions of people from devastating cyclones and tidal surges – of India’s 58 recorded species of mangroves, 55 species are found in Bhitarkanika, a wider mangrove diversity than in the Sundarbans.
East Calcutta Wetlands
Included on 19/08/02, located in West Bengal, is world—renowned as a model of a multiple use wetland, the site’s resource recovery systems, developed by local people through the ages, have saved the city of Calcutta from the costs of constructing and maintaining waste water treatment plants. The wetland forms an urban facility for treating the city’s waste water and utilizing the treated water for Pisciculture and agriculture, through the recovery of nutrients in an efficient manner – the water flows through fish ponds covering about 4,000 ha, and the ponds act as solar reactors and complete most of their bio-chemical reactions with the help of solar energy. Thus the system is described as ‘one of the rare examples of environmental protection and development management where a complex ecological process has been adopted by the local farmers for mastering the resource recovery activities’ (RIS). The wetland provides about 150 tons of fresh vegetables daily, as well as some 10,500 tons of table fish per year, the latter providing livelihoods for about 50,000 people directly and as many again indirectly.
Included on 19/08/02, located in Tamil Nadu, is situated in coastal area consisting of shallow waters, shores, and long sand bars, intertidal flats and intertidal forests, chiefly mangrove, and seasonal, often-saline Lagoons, as well as human—made salt exploitation sites. Some 257 species of birds have been recorded, 119 of them water birds, including the vulnerable species Spoonbill Sandpiper and Grey Pelican and some 30,000 Greater and Lesser Flamingos. The site serves as the breeding ground or nursery for many commercially important species of fish, as well as for prawns and crabs.
Included on 19/08/02, located in Kerala, is the largest brackish, humid tropical wetland ecosystem on the southwest coast of lndia, fed by 10 rivers and typical of large estuarine systems on the western coast, renowned for its clams and supporting the third largest waterfowl population in India during the winter months. Over 90 species of resident birds and 50 species of migratory birds are found in the Kol area.
Included on 22/01/02, located in Punjab, is a human made wetland of lake and river formed by the 1952 construction of a barrage for diversion of water from the Sutlej River for drinking and irrigation supplies. The site is an important breeding place for the nationally protected Smooth Indian Otter, Hog Deer, Sambhar , and several reptiles, and the endangered Indian Pangolin is thought to be present. Some 35 species of fish play an important role in the food chain, and about 150 species of local and migratory birds are supported.
Wular Lake is the largest freshwater lake in India and lies in the Kashmir Valley, 40 km northwest of Srinagar City in the Northwest of India. With a size of 189 sq. km, Wular Lake is also one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia. The lake lies at an altitude of 1,580 m. Its maximum depth is 14 metres, it has a length of 16 km and a breadth of 10 km.
Wular Lake plays a significant role in the hydrographic system of the Kashmir Valley by acting as huge absorption basin for annual floodwater. The lake and its surrounding extensive marshes have an important natural wildlife. The rivers Bohnar, Madamati and Erin from the mountain ranges and the rivers Vetasta (Jhelum) and the Ningal from the south bring hundreds of tons of silt into the Wular Lake every year. This rampant siltation and the human encroachments have devastating effects on the lake.
In recognition of its biological, hydrological and socio-economic values, the Wular Lake was included in 1986 as a Wetland of National Importance under the Wetlands Programme of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India for intensive conservation and management purposes. Subsequently in 1990, it was designated as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.
Wular Lake is a sustainable wintering site for a number of migratory waterfowl species.
It is also an important habitat for fish and contributes about 60 percent of the fish yield of the Kashmir Valley.
Maharana Pratap Sagar
Maharana Pratap Sagar also known as Pong Dam Reservoir or Pong Dam Lake was created in 1975 building the highest earthfill dam in India on the Beas River in the wetland zone of the Siwalik Hills of the Kangra district of the state of Himachal Pradesh, in India. Named in the honour of the patriot Maharana Pratap (1572 –1597 C.E), the reservoir or the lake is a well known wildlife sanctuary and one of the 25 wetland sites declared in India by the Ramsar Convention.
Tso Moriri lake
The Tso Moriri lake in the Changthang area of Ladakh was declared as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in 2002. The lake now has the distinction of being the highest Ramsar site in the world surpassing Salar de Tara in Chile. The lake is approximately 19 kms long and 7 kms wide and is located at an altitude of 4595 meters above sea level. It is fed by a number of small glacial streams and has no external drainage. This fact coupled with a high rate of evaporation, has resulted in the waters being brackish and bereft of any life. The lake is the only breeding ground outside of China for one of the most endangered cranes, the Black-necked crane. The area also forms a nesting ground for the main nesting site for the Bar Headed Geese and the Brown Headed Gull. Tsomoriri has been designated as a Ramsar Site in November 2002.
Sambhar Lake was also conferred as a Ramsar site in 1990. Ramsar sites are those areas which are recognized as wetlands with an international importance. Such wetlands around the world, offer key wintering areas for migratory birds like flamingos and other northern Asiatic species. Beautiful pink flamingos, storks, pelicans, redshanks, sandpipers, and black-winged stilts are worth a vision.
‘Sambhar’ in Hindi, means salt, this is the largest saline lake in India, and the lake is about 22.5 km in length. A stone-made dam has also been constructed on the eastern end of the salt lake. The large glacial water body is fed by many freshwater streams, of which two are major rivers named as Mendha and Rupangarh. According to myths, Hindu goddess Mata Shakambhari gifted the lake to the people of Sambhar, 2500 years ago. A small town named Sambhar is situated on Jaipur- Ajmer artery, which is named after its saline lake. One can easily reach to Sambhar. It is approximately 60 km from Jaipur.
A treat for birdwatchers, the lake also provides a remarkable ecological balance between specialized algae and bacteria. Such a co-existence in the waters of Sambhar Lake, display unique colors in pattern on the water surface. Such a microbial growth also helps in sustaining the migrating waterfowl.
Sasathamkotta Lake, also categorized as a wetland, is the largest fresh water lake in Kerala, a state of India on the south of the West Coast. The lake is named after the ancient Sastha temple (a pilgrimage centre) located on its bank. It meets the drinking water needs of half million people of the Quilon district and also provides fishing resources. The purity of the lake water for drinking use is attributed to the presence of large population of larva called cavaborus that consumes bacteria in the lake water. The lake is a designated wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention since November 2002.
Included on 08/11/05; located in Himachal Pradesh, area 49 ha. A high altitude lake on the upper Chandra valley flowing to the Chandra river of the Western Himalayas (4,337m asl.) near the Kunzam pass joining the Himalayan and Pir Panchal ranges. It supports CITES and IUCN Redlisted Snow Leopard and is a refuge for many species like Snow Cock, Chukor, Black Ring Stilt, Kestrel, Golden Eagle, Chough, Red Fox, Himalayan Ibex, and Blue Sheep. These species, over the years, have developed special physiological features as adaption strategies to cold arid climate, intense radiation, and oxygen deficiency. Some 65% of the larger catchment is degraded forest due to overgrazing by the nomadic herdsmen, while 35% are covered by grasslands. Other threatening factors to this fragile and sparse vegetation are summer trekking, littering waste, and lack of sanitation facilities. Since declaring the site a nationally important wetland in 1994, the authorities have been providing funds for ecotourism facilities. Spiti Forest Department is the custodian and State Council of Science, Technology and Environment is coordinating conservation management.
Included on 08/11/05; Jammu & Kashmir; area 1,375 ha; Located at the northwest Himalayan biogeopgraphic province of Kashmir, back of the snow-draped Pir Panchal (1,584m asl.), Hokera wetland is only 10 km from scenic paradise of Srinagar. A natural perennial wetland contiguous to the Jhelum basin, it is the only site with remaining reedbeds of Kashmir and pathway of 68 waterfowl species like Large Egret, Great Crested Grebe, Little Cormorant, Common Shelduck, Tufted Duck and endangered White-eyed Pochard, coming from Siberia, China, Central Asia, and Northern Europe. It is an important source of food, spawning ground and nursery for fishes, besides offering feeding and breeding ground to a variety of water birds. Typical marshy vegetation complexes inhabit like Typha, Phragmites, Eleocharis, Trapa, andNymphoides species ranging from shallow water to open water aquatic flora. Sustainable exploitation of fish, fodder and fuel is significant, despite water withdrawals since 1999. Potential threats include recent housing facilities, littered garbage, and demand for increasing tourist facilities. Ramsar site no. 1570.
Included on 08/11/05; located in Himachal Pradesh; area 20 ha. Wildlife Sanctuary, Reserve Forest. A natural wetland with freshwater springs and inland subterranean karst formations, fed by a small stream flowing from the lower Himalayan out to the Giri river. The lake is home to at least 443 species of fauna and 19 species of ichthyofauna representative of lacustrine ecosystems like Puntius, Labeo, Rasbora, Channa. Prominent vegetation ranges from dry deciduous like Shorea Robusta, Terminalia tomentosa, Dalbergia sissoo to hydrophytes. There are 103 species of birds of which 66 are residents, e.g. Crimson-breasted barbet, Mayna, Bulbul, Pheasants, Egrets, Herons, Mallards and Lapwing. Among ungulates Sambhar, Barking deer and Ghorals are also abundant in the area. The lake has high religious significance and is named after the mother of Hindu sage Parshuram, and is thus visited by thousands of pilgrims and tourists. Conservation measures so far include community awareness, and prevention of silt influx from eroded slopes and 50 ha. of massive plantation in the catchment. The site is managed by the Shimla Forest Department, Himachal Pradesh.
Included on 08/11/05; located in Uttar Pradesh; 240 ha; 23°29’N 090°01’E. A lowland sedimentation reservoir in the northeast hills, fed by three perennial streams discharging to the River Gomti. The lake is abundant in commercially important freshwater fishes likeBotia spp, Notopterus Chitala, Mystus spp., Ompok pabda, Labeo bata, and freshwater scampi, with annual production of 26 metric-tons, and an ideal habitat for IUCN Redlisted Three-striped Roof Turtle Kachuga dhongka. Owing to high rainfall (2500mm) and downstream topography, the wetland is regularly flooded with 4-5 times annual peak, assisting in groundwater recharge. Aquatic weeds are composed of rare marginal-floating-emergent-submerged weeds. Lands are owned by the state with perennial water areas leased out to the subsistent fishermens’ cooperative, and surrounding seasonal waterbodies are cultivated for paddy. Main threats are increasing silt loads due to deforestation, expansion of agricultural land and intensive farming, and land conversion for population pressure. Vijaya Dashami, one of the most important Hindu festivals with various sports events, attracts at least 50,000 tourists and devotees every year. A management plan is underway by the MoEF-India.
Included on 08/11/05; located in Jammu & Kashmir; 350 ha; 32°45’N 075°12’E. Wildlife Sanctuary, Hindu sacred site. Freshwater composite lake in semi-arid Panjab Plains, adjoining the Jhelum Basin with catchment of sandy conglomeratic soil, boulders and pebbles. Surinsar is rain-fed without permanent discharge, and Mansar is primarily fed by surface run-off and partially by mineralised water through paddy fields, with inflow increasing in rainy season. The lake supports CITES and IUCN Redlisted Lissemys punctata, Aspideretes gangeticus, and Mansariella lacustris. This composite lake is high in micro nutrients for which it is an attractive habitat, breeding and nursery ground for migratory waterfowls like Fulica atra, Gallinula chloropus, Podiceps nigricollis, Aythya fuligula, and various Anas species. The site is socially and culturally very important with many temples around owing to its mythical origin from the Mahabharata period. Although the lakes support variety of fishes, fishing is discouraged for religious values. The main threats are increasing visitors, agricultural runoff, bathing and cremation rituals. Conservation is focused on awareness-raising.
Upper Ganga River (Brijghat to Narora Stretch)
Included on 08/11/05; located in Uttar Pradesh; 26,590 ha; 28°33’N 078°12’E. A shallow river stretch of the great Ganges with intermittent small stretches of deep-water pools and reservoirs upstream from barrages. The river provides habitat for IUCN Red listed Ganges River Dolphin, Gharial, Crocodile, 6 species of turtles, otters, 82 species of fish and more than hundred species of birds. Major plant species, some of which have high medicinal values, include Dalbergia sissoo, Saraca indica, Eucalyptus globulus, Ficus bengalensis, Dendrocalamus strictus, Tectona grandis, Azadirachta indica and aquatic Eichhorina. This river stretch has high Hindu religious importance for thousands of pilgrims and is used for cremation and holy baths for spiritual purification. Major threats are sewage discharge, agricultural runoff, and intensive fishing. Conservation activities carried out are plantation to prevent bank erosion, training on organic farming, and lobbying to ban commercial fishing.