Ramsar Convention: Importance, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands UPSC

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Ramsar Convention, also known as Wetland Convention, is an environmental convention signed in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran. The talks of this convention started in the 1960s to protect wetlands of international importance and promote their sustainable use. It was in 1975 when the Ramsar Convention came into effect. As of 2022, there are 49 Ramsar sites under the wetland convention. The most recent two additions were announced by Shri Bhupender Yadav, Minister for Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, on 2nd February 2022 (World Wetlands Day).

Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat and Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh are the two new Ramsar wetland sites of international importance. Ramsar Convention UPSC topic must be prepared properly as questions are often asked in both Prelims and Mains examinations.

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.

Ramsar Convention UPSC PDF

  • 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.

Ramsar Wetlands

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.

Ramsar Treaty

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:

S. No Ramsar Sites in India Location
1 Tso Kar Wetland Complex Ladakh
2 Keoladeo National Park Rajasthan
3 Wular lake Jammu & Kashmir
4 Surinsar- Mansar lakes Jammu & Kashmir
5 Hokera Wetland Jammu & Kashmir
6 Chilika Lake Odisha
7 Sasthamkotta lake Kerala
8 Sambhar lake Rajasthan
9 Sultanpur National Park Haryana
10 Nandur Madhameshwar Maharashtra
11 Saman Bird Sanctuary Uttar Pradesh
12 Chandra Taal Himachal Pradesh
13 Lonar Lake Maharashtra
14 Rudrasagar Lake Tripura
15 Nangal Wildlife Sanctuary Punjab
16 Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary Uttar Pradesh
17 Tsomoriri Ladakh
18 Beas Conservation Reserve Punjab
19 Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary Gujarat
20 Kolleru lake Andhra Pradesh
21 Deepor Beel Assam
22 Parvati Agra Bird Sanctuary Uttar Pradesh
23 Bhoj Wetlands Madhya Pradesh
24 Sandi Bird Sanctuary Uttar Pradesh
25 Asan Barrage Uttarakhand
26 Sarsai Nawar Jheel Uttar Pradesh
27 Haiderpur Wetland Uttar Pradesh
28 Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary Haryana
29 Harike Wetlands Punjab
30 Kanjli Wetland Punjab
31 Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary Uttar Pradesh
32 Sunderban Wetland West Bengal
33 Loktak lake Manipur
34 East Kolkata Wetlands West Bengal
35 Renuka lake Himachal Pradesh
36 Ashtamudi Wetland Kerala
37 Vembanad Kol Wetland Kerala
38 Wadhvana Wetland Gujarat
39 Sur Sarovar Uttar Pradesh
40 Bhitarkanika Mangroves Odisha
41 Keshopur-Miani Community Reserve Punjab
42 Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary Tamil Nadu
43 Ropar Wetland Punjab
44 Samaspur Bird Sanctuary Uttar Pradesh
45 Pong Dam lake Himachal Pradesh
46 Nalsarovar Bird sanctuary Gujarat
47 Thol Lake Wildlife Sanctuary Gujarat
48 Upper Ganga river Uttar Pradesh
49 Kanwar Lake or Kabal Taal Bihar

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.
  • 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 has 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 Facts for UPSC

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 centres 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 to 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
    • IUCN
    • Wetlands International
    • WWF
    • 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.

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