Ramsar Convention is formally known as Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat. It was signed on 2 February 1971 at Ramsar in Iran. That date is celebrated as World Wetland Day now.
Ramsar Convention has two fold objectives viz. Conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands; and stop the encroachment and loss of wetlands.
This treaty is not a legal binding treaty and is not a part of UN & UNESCO conventions.
There are around 2100 Ramsar sites around the world of which maximum are in UK. The Largest area covered by Ramsar Sites is in Canada. Ramsar secretariat is hosted by IUCN World Conservation Union in Gland, Switzerland.
How does it work?
First of all a country joins the Ramsar Convention. With this, it gets itself listed into the international effort for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. Once a country has joined, there are three commitments which it has to fulfill as obligations:
- It has to designate at least one of its wetlands into the List of Wetlands of International Importance called “Ramsar List”. Once that is done, it can later designate more such wetlands.
- The above designation has to be based upon criteria that take into account the ecology, botany, zoology, limnology (freshwater science) or Hydrology. Thus, not every wetland becomes a Ramsar site but only those which have significant values related to these fields.
- The country has to make all efforts for wise use and conservation of the Ramsar Sites in its territory. Being a part of Ramsar convention gives it access to know-how of conservation in different parts of the world.
- If the ecological character of any Ramsar wetland has changed, or is changing or is likely to change as the result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference, it will inform without delay to the Ramsar Secretariat.
- Once this information has been provided to Ramsar Secretariat, it will do the following
- Enter the wetland into its Montreux Record (a record for such sites where there has been or likely to be adverse ecological change)
- Send a Ramsar Advisory Mission to the country. This mission will analyse the situation and define how to tackle the threats to the wetland.
- Once the appropriate measures have been taken, the site will be removed from Montreux Record.
The Ramsar convention also makes the countries cooperate in matters of conservation of the trans-boundary wetlands, shared water systems, and shared or migratory species, and to share expertise and resources with Parties less able to meet their commitments.
India’s Ramsar sites
India became a contracting party to the Ramsar Convention in October 1981 and designated Chilika Lake (Odisha) and Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan) as its first two Ramsar Sites. Four additional sites were designated in 1990: Sambhar Lake (Rajasthan), Loktak Lake (Manipur), Harike Lake (Punjab) and Wular Lake (Jammu & Kashmir). Currently, India has 26 Ramsar Sites as follows:
- Andhra Pradesh
- Kolleru Lake
- Deepor Beel
- Himachal Pradesh
- Chandertal Wetland
- Pong Dam Lake
- Renuka Wetland (This is smallest wetland of India)
- Jammu & Kashmir
- Hokera Wetland
- Surinsar-Mansar Lakes
- Wular Lake
- Ashtamudi Wetland
- Sasthamkotta Lake
- Vembanad-Kol Wetland (Largest Wetland of India)
- Madhya Pradesh
- Bhoj Wetland
- Loktak Lake (Montreux Record)
- Bhitarkanika Mangroves
- Chilika Lake
- Harike Lake (Harike Wetland and the lake are manmade and were formed by constructing the head works across the Sutlej river, in 1953)
- Keoladeo National Park (Montreux Record)
- Sambhar Lake
- Tamil Nadu
- Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary
- Rudrasagar Lake
- Uttar Pradesh
- Upper Ganga River (Brijghat to Narora Stretch)
- West Bengal
- East Calcutta Wetlands
- Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary (Latest wetland added)
Current wetlands in Montreux Record
Currently, two wetlands of India are in Montreux record viz. Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan and Loktak Lake, Manipur. Further, Chilka lake was placed in the record but was later removed from it.
National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP)
This programme was launched in 1986 and has identified some 115 wetlands for urgent protection and conservation.