What is Ramsar Convention?
The Ramsar Convention or Wetland Convention is an international treaty that promotes the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands.
- The Ramsar Convention came to effect in 1975 after being signed in 1971.
- International and local action was encouraged to put a step in the right direction of sustainable development.
- The late 1960s saw the foundation of the convention by Eskandar Firouz, former environment minister of Iran, Luc Hoffmann of Tour du Valat research station in the Camargue in France, and Geoffrey Matthews of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge.
- The conference adopted the terms of the agreement that was held in the Iranian Caspian Sea resort of Ramsar on 2 February 1971. The convention turned 50 in 2021.
3 Pillars of Ramsar Convention
There are three fundamental principles that go behind the purpose of the Ramsar Convention:
- Encouraging proper and wise use of the wetlands: These sites are rich hubs of biodiversity and future sites of sustainable development. Their use needs to be controlled and judicious.
- Listening of Wetlands of International Importance: This convention identifies and designates suitable wetlands under the list for their effective management.
- Promotion of international cooperation: The Ramsar convention aims to facilitate cooperation on an international scale over the transboundary wetlands and shared wetland systems.
Coming to the basics, Ramsar wetlands are ecosystems that are seasonally or permanently saturated with water. This ecosystem has significant biodiversity. It grows mangroves. It has marshes, rivers, lakes, deltas, floodplains, flooded forests, rice fields, coral reefs, and marine areas no deeper than 6 meters at low tide, as well as human-made wetlands such as waste-water treatment ponds and reservoirs.
While wetlands comprise to be only 6% of the total Earth’s land surface, it houses and breeds nearly 40% of all flora and fauna. This makes the Ramsar convention on wetlands extremely important for the sustenance of a healthy ecological cycle.
Recently, a few sites have been added to the Wetland Convention. Note the latest news about the Ramsar convention through the following points:
- Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat and Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh were recently declared as Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance on the occasion of World Wetland day 2022 (2nd January 2022). The announcement happened at Sultanpur National Park, a Ramsar site in Haryana.
- India has proposed 26 sites under the Ramsar convention on wetlands which shall make the total 75 sites as the nation observes its 75th Independence year.
- The proposed new sites include Thane Creek from Maharashtra, Nanda Lake from Goa, 12 sites from Tamil Nadu, 4 in Odisha, and 3 in Madhya Pradesh, among others.
- The 50th anniversary of the Ramsar Convention in 2021 saw the establishment of the Centre for Wetland Conservation & Management, the first in the country. It is under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), at the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) in Chennai.
Ramsar Convention Sites in India
Wetlands of International Importance are called Ramsar Sites. Below mentioned is the latest list of Ramsar convention sites in India:
Ramsar Sites in India
Tso Kar Wetland Complex
Keoladeo National Park
Jammu & Kashmir
Surinsar- Mansar lakes
Jammu & Kashmir
Jammu & Kashmir
Sultanpur National Park
Saman Bird Sanctuary
Nangal Wildlife Sanctuary
Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary
Beas Conservation Reserve
Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary
Parvati Agra Bird Sanctuary
Sandi Bird Sanctuary
Sarsai Nawar Jheel
Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary
Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary
East Kolkata Wetlands
Vembanad Kol Wetland
Keshopur-Miani Community Reserve
Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary
Samaspur Bird Sanctuary
Pong Dam lake
Nalsarovar Bird sanctuary
Thol Lake Wildlife Sanctuary
Upper Ganga river
Kanwar Lake or Kabal Taal
Need for Ramsar Convention
To understand the need for Ramsar Convention, it is important to understand how wetlands are under threat.
- The most common threat to wetlands remains to be the fast-paced urbanization of our capitalistic world. Urban wetlands are constantly under immense developmental pressure to provide for residential, industrial, and commercial needs.
- Unplanned urban and agricultural progress has caused the wetlands to be drained and transformed. This causes substantial ecological as well as economic losses in the longer run.
- The Green Revolution of the 1970s saw the transformation of wetlands into paddy fields. To meet the irrigation needs, large reservoirs, canals, and dams were built. This severely depleted the hydrology of the surrounding wetlands.
- The drain of the hydrology of wetlands is not limited to the era of the Green Revolution, as canals and diversions are regularly constructed to hydrate the lower arid regions. This alters the drainage patterns and causes noticeable degradation. Keoladeo Ghana Sanctuary, Loktak Lake, Chilika Lake, and Vembanad Kole are some names that have been impacted negatively because of this practice. This is another factor that led to the need for the Ramsar convention.
- Over the withdrawal of groundwater has led us to salinization.
- Other obvious contributors are deforestation and pollution. Removal of vegetation causes erosion of soil and siltation, while the infamous unrestricted sewage dumping in freshwaters have threatened the quality of wetlands.
- The rise in demand for seafood has added to the economic incentives of Ramsar wetlands, causing the development of mangrove forests into pisciculture and aquaculture ponds.
- Climate change is real and responsible for the increased air temperature, scanty precipitation, increased frequency of natural calamities, and the hike in the atmospheric CO2 concentration.
Conservation on Wetlands: Global Initiatives
The Ramsar Convention is one such initiative for wetland preservation on a global scale. The other initiatives are as follows:
- Montreux Record is maintained as a part of the Ramsar List. It is a register of wetland sites where changes in ecology have been observed or can occur as a result of technological progress or ill effects of human interference.
- There are two wetlands in India that are in the Montreux Record, namely Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan and Loktak Lake in Manipur. Chilka Lake in Odisha was there earlier but was later removed.
- World Wetland Day is celebrated on the 2nd of February every year to raise awareness about the importance and endangerment of wetlands.
- A global campaign called Cities4Forests works closely with cities across the globe to connect with forests. They emphasize the importance of wetlands and their multiple benefits in an attempt to help combat climate change and protect biodiversity in cities.
Wetland Conservation in India
Other conservation initiatives taken in India apart from Ramsar Convention are as follows:
- National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems (NPCA)
- Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017
- National Wetland Inventory and Assessment was carried out by ISRO. they used remote sensing satellites from 2006 to 2011 and were able to map around two lakh wetlands in India.
Ramsar Convention UPSC Facts
Owing to the competitive nature of the UPSC exam, the depth of knowledge that is to be possessed by students needs to be dealt with tactically. Go through this bulleted list of important facts about the Ramsar Convention UPSC topic to be well-versed in this area:
- Ramsar Convention is the only internationally recognized treaty that centers itself around a specific ecosystem.
- Initially, it started with the idea of waterbird habitat conservation. Over time, it has become all-encompassing about wetland conservation issues.
- The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat is its official name.
- The Ramsar Convention covers three important subjects:
- There are now 171 contracting parties. They are expected o designate suitable wetlands in their territory under the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.
- The designated wetlands are to be taken care of and judiciously used.
- Shared wetlands by two or more territories are to be used after due consultation.
- Ramsar Convention is not a regulatory regime. It was modified under the Paris Protocol in 1982 and by the Regina Amendments in 1987.
- World Wetlands Day was first celebrated in 1997 and has been ever since celebrated annually on February 2nd to mark its anniversary.
- This conference happens every three years. They come up with a new plan of action with set goals every six years. The latest one was formulated in the 12th convention for the years 2016-2024 and is the 4th plan of their tenure.
- It has 6 partners that are international organizations, namely
- Birdlife International
- Wetlands International
- International Water Management Institute
- Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
Ramsar Convention UPSC
Wetlands of International Importance are known as Ramsar Sites as per the Wetland Convention. Ramsar Convention UPSC topic is often asked in the IAS Exam in both Prelims and Mains. Candidates preparing for the upcoming exam must prepare the topic as it is part of the Environment and Ecology of the UPSC Syllabus.