Today is World Wetlands day. So what are Wetlands, you may ask?
|| Elsie Gabriel
Wetlands occur where water meets land. They include mangroves, peatlands and marshes, rivers and lakes, deltas, floodplains and flooded forests, rice-fields, and even coral reefs.
Although the central government in India had declared that wetlands shall be conserved and managed in accordance with the principle of ‘wise use’ as determined by the Wetlands Authority, still rampant destruction is going on due to infrastructure and development. The Centre’s role under the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017, is monitoring its implementation by states/UTs, recommending trans-boundary wetlands for notification and reviewing integrated management of selected wetlands under the Ramsar Convention — an international arrangement to preserve identified wetlands.
The new rules prohibit activities like conversion of wetland for non-wetland uses, setting up of industries, waste dumping, discharge of untreated wastes and effluents. Wetlands are threatened by reclamation and degradation due to activities like drainage and landfill, pollution, hydrological alteration (water withdrawal and changes in inflow and outflow), over-exploitation resulting in loss of biodiversity and disruption in ecosystem services provided by them. Value of these wetlands must be created among the ocean inhabitants to protect them, as the consequences of their destruction are severe.
Wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently or seasonally, where oxygen-free processes prevail. The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other land forms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants, adapted to the unique hydric soil.
World Wetlands Day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
The 2020 theme for World Wetlands Day is an opportunity to highlight wetland biodiversity, its status, why it matters and to promote actions to reverse its loss. It’s alterations and destruction is illegal.
Wetlands are vital for humans, for other ecosystems and for our climate, providing essential ecosystem services such as water regulation, including flood control and water purification. Wetland biodiversity matters for our health, our food supply, for tourism and for jobs. Wetlands absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide so help slow global heating and reduce pollution, hence have often been referred to as the “Kidneys of the Earth”.
Though they cover only around 6 per cent of the Earth’s land surface, 40 per cent of all plant and animal species live or breed in wetlands. They are disappearing three times faster than forests due to building modern infrastructure, human activities and global heating. Report any destruction of mangroves near Oceans and inland borders. India has named ten new Wetlands of International Importance on the occasion of World. Wetlands Day. They provide habitats to an exceptional biodiversity, while providing communities with food resources and protection against threats such as flooding.
The new Ramsar sites of India are in three states — Uttar Pradesh (Nawabganj, Parvati Agra, Saman, Samaspur, Sandi and Sarsai Nawar), Maharashtra (Nandur Madhameshwar) and Punjab (Keshopur-Miani, Beas Conservation Reserve and Nangal).
Nandur Madhameshwar (no. 2410 on the List of Wetlands of International Importance) is a mosaic of lakes, marshes and riparian forest on the Deccan Plateau in Maharashtra State. Construction of the Nandur Madhameshwar Weir at the confluence of the Godavari and Kadwa Rivers helped create a thriving wetland: originally designed to overcome water shortages in the surrounding area, the Site now also serves as a buffer against floodwaters and as a biodiversity hotspot. It provides sanctuary to critically endangered species including Deolali minnow (Parapsilorhynchus prateri), Indian vulture (Gyps indicus) and white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis).
India has around 69.2 million acres of wetland area and all wetlands are under high intensity watch. As a citizen or environmentalist, inhabitant or common man, it is your duty to report any alterations and destruction of these wetlands to the government.
(The writer is an award winning Author, environmentalist,climate change advocate, connecting the anthropological discoveries to the globe. An advanced PADI scuba diver,with expertise in Environment law and Mass Communications, Researching on Climate change and ocean communities.)