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India acquires 5 new Ramsar sites taking the total figure to 54

Congratulations India! Our total Ramsar sites have now risen from 49 to 54. Union Environment Minister, Bhupender Yadav on July 26 shared that 5 more Indian wetlands have got Ramsar recognition as wetlands of international importance. Among these are Karikili Bird Sanctuary, Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest, Pichavaram Mangrove in Tamil Nadu, Sakhya Sagar in Madhya Pradesh, and the Pala Wetland in Mizoram.

54 Ramsar sites
Earlier this year, on the occasion of World Wetlands Day, February 2, India had added Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat and Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh to the list of Ramsar sites in India. Before the addition of Bakhira and Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh’s Haiderpur wetland made it to the list of Indian wetlands of international importance.

Karikili Bird Sanctuary in Kanchipuram district, 86 km from Chennai has made it to the latest list. It is famous for its breeding heronry including cormorants, egrets, grey heron, open-billed stork, darter, spoonbill, night herons, grebes, grey pelican, etc. Further, many migratory birds like garganey teals, shovellers, pintails, stilts, sandpipers, etc, visit the sanctuary in winter.

Another one from Tamil Nadu, the Pallikaranai Marsh, is one of the last remaining natural wetlands in Chennai. It is a part of the vast Bay of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem. The biodiversity-rich South Indian wetland is home to most endangered reptiles such as Russel’s Viper and birds like Glossy ibis, and Pheasant-tailed Jacana among others.

The Pichavaram Mangrove in Tamil Nadu has a well-developed mangrove forest dominant with Rhizophora spp., Avicennia marina, Exocaria agallocha, Bruguiera cylindrica, Lumnitzera racemosa, Ceriops decandra and Aegiceras corniculatum as the dominant flora. It is located about 200 km south of Chennai in the southeast coast of India.

Mizoram’s Palak lake is the largest lake in the State and is known as Pala Tipa by the locals. It is surrounded by lush green forests and mountains and is home to a range of animals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles.

Why is this significant?
Wetland is significant for the ecology that is suffering the impact of climate change and losing varied plant and animal species. As per the Ramsar Convention on wetlands report, the wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests, with 35% of the wetlands lost from 1970-2015. It is an alarming situation, demanding urgent attention as 40% of the world’s plant and animal species breed in wetlands. The wetlands are also vital feeding and breeding grounds for migratory birds.

Further, the “Kidneys of the Earth”, wetlands are vital not only for the ecosystems but our climate, providing essential services such as water regulation, flood control, and water purification. Wetland biodiversity is significant for ensuring good health, food supply, picturesque views facilitating tourism and thus related jobs.

Wetlands are not only home to waterbirds, support flora and fauna but also serve as a source of income to people. The local villagers depend on wetlands for their livelihood in the form of fishing, agricultural activities etc. Moreover, these can also be used for recreation and tourism purposes and supports scientific and educational activities.

1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, an international treaty, aims at the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. Named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, the convention was signed in 1971. The Ramsar Convention works closely with six other organizations known as international organization partners (IOPs), namely BirdLife International, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Wetlands International, WWF International, and Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT).

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