Asian Waterbird Census

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 14, 2022, 14:25

The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) is part of a global annual event where thousands of volunteers in Australasia and Asia calculate the total number of waterbirds in the wetlands of their home countries. The event happens in the month of January every year and is coordinated by Wetlands International, a global not-for-profit organisation for the restoration and conservation of wetlands.

The event is a part of the International Waterbird Census (IWC). Waterbirds refer to birds that depend on wetlands to thrive and survive. The status of the waterbirds speaks volumes about the health and quality of a region's wetlands.

What is the Asian Waterbird Census?

The Asian Waterbird Census or AWC is part of the International Waterbird Census or IWC. It was first held in 1987 in India. The event is now conducted from Afghanistan to Japan, as well as Australasia and Southeast Asia. The range of the AWC spans from the East Asian-Australasian Flyway to the Central Asian Flyway. The AWC coincides with the regional programs of IWC in Europe, Africa, West Asia, the Caribbean, and the Neotropics.

The primary objective of the AWC event is to observe and monitor the status of waterbirds hovering around wetlands. Information about the waterbirds' population in the region's wetlands during non-breeding periods is gathered annually. It also involves the monitoring and evaluation of wetland conditions and status and sensitisation of citizens on the importance of waterbird conservation and wetlands.

In India, the AWC is managed by the Wetlands International and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). BNHS is a pan-India wildlife research organisation that aims to promote the conservation of nature and biological diversity.

Why was the Asian Waterbird Census 2022 Special?

The Asian Waterbird Census entered its 55th year in 2022. The event started in January 2022 and ended in February. The event played an instrumental role in disseminating information about the management and conservation of wetlands and waterbirds in Asia.

Thousands of volunteers participated in surveys across strategic wetlands in India and Asia to determine the condition and status of wetlands in the continent. Although a comprehensive review of the findings is awaited, the available data paints a grim picture.

For instance, surveyors found that in Delhi's Sanjay Lake, only 13 species of birds were spotted, as opposed to 17 species between 2019 and 2021. Since the species diversity is showing a steady decline, it can be concluded that the lake's water quality and biodiversity is degrading. Also, the number of bar-headed geese, gadwall, and common teal has decreased substantially in Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary.

The AWC thus shows an accurate picture of the grassroots reality of birds and wetlands.

The Asian Waterbird Census plays a pivotal role in increasing people's awareness of birds and wetlands in Asia.

Besides AWC, other organisations involved in wetlands conservation include the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on Migratory Species, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Wetlands International's Waterbird Population Estimates programme, IUCN's Global Species Programme, and BirdLife International's Important Bird Area (IBA) Programme.

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FAQ on Asian Waterbird Census

Q.1) What is the Asian Waterbird Census?

The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) is part of a global annual event where thousands of volunteers in Australasia and Asia calculate the total number of waterbirds in the wetlands of their home countries.

Q.2) What are waterbirds?

Waterbirds are birds that depend on wetlands to thrive and survive. The status of the waterbirds speaks volumes about the health and quality of a region's wetlands.

Q.3) When was the Asian Waterbird Census first held?

The Asian Waterbird Census was first held in 1987 in India before being held all over Asia.

Q.4) Who manages the Asian Waterbird Census?

In India, the Asian Waterbird Census is managed by the Wetlands International and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).