Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Ramsar Convention is formally known as Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat. It was signed on 2 February 1971 at city of 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.

Key Facts

As of 2023, there are above 2400 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.

Criteria for Identifying Wetlands of Importance

As per the Convention, wetlands are defined broadly to include lakes, rivers, marshes, estuaries, deltas, tidal mudflats, mangroves, coral reefs etc. A wetland can qualify as a Ramsar Site by fulfilling at least one of nine listing criteria. These criteria assess the ecological, botanical, zoological and hydrological importance of the wetland. These criteria are as follows:

  1. The site contains a representative, rare, or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic region.
  2. The site supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities. This particularly highlights the importance of the site for conserving biological diversity.
  3. The site supports populations of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region. This emphasizes the role of the wetland in the broader ecological context.
  4. The site supports plant and/or animal species at a critical stage in their life cycles, or provides refuge during adverse conditions. This includes areas that are critical for breeding, feeding, or resting.
  5. The site supports 20,000 or more waterbirds. This is a significant number, indicating the site’s importance as a habitat for these birds.
  6. The site supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of waterbird. This highlights the site’s role in the survival of specific bird populations.
  7. The site supports a significant proportion of indigenous fish subspecies, species or families, life-history stages, species interactions and/or populations that are representative of wetland benefits and/or values and thereby contributes to global biological diversity.
  8. The site is an important source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks, either within the wetland or elsewhere, depend.
  9. The site regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of wetland-dependent non-avian animal species. This could include mammals, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, and insects.

Ramsar Sites in India

By becoming a signatory in 1982, India has committed to designate its wetlands of global importance as Ramsar Sites. Out of over 2,400 Ramsar Sites globally, India now has 75 within its territory. They are as follows:

Ramsar SiteStateDesignated YearArea (km2)
1Kolleru LakeAndhra Pradesh2002901
2Deepor BeelAssam200240
3Kanwar (Kabar) TaalBihar202026.2
4Nanda LakeGoa20220.42
5Khijadia WLSGujarat20216
6Nalsarovar BSGujarat2012123
7Thol LakeGujarat20216.99
8Wadhvana WetlandGujarat202110.38
9Bhindawas WLSHaryana20214.11
10Sultanpur NPHaryana2021142.5
11Chandra TaalHimachal Pradesh20050.49
12Pong Dam LakeHimachal Pradesh2002156.62
13Renuka LakeHimachal Pradesh20050.2
14Ranganathituu BSKarnataka20225.18
15Ashtamudi WetlandKerala2002614
16Sasthamkotta LakeKerala20023.73
17Vembanad-Kol Wetland (Longest Lake in India)Kerala19051512.5
18Bhoj WetlandMadhya Pradesh200232
19Sakhya SagarMadhya Pradesh20222.48
20Sirpur wetlandMadhya Pradesh20221.61
21Yashwant SagarMadhya Pradesh20228.22
22Lonar Lake (Impact Crater Lake)Maharashtra20204.27
23Nandur MadhameshwarMaharashtra201914
24Thane CreekMaharashtra202265.21
25Loktak LakeManipur1990266
26Pala WetlandMizoram202118.5
27Ansupa LakeOdisha20212.31
28Bhitarkanika MangrovesOdisha2002650
29Chilika Lake (Oldest Ramsar Site in India)Odisha19811165
30Hirakud ReservoirOdisha2021654
31Satkosia GorgeOdisha2021981.97
32Tampara LakeOdisha20213
33Beas CnRPunjab201964
34Harike WetlandPunjab199041
35Kanjli WetlandPunjab20021.83
36Keshopur-Miani CmRPunjab201934
37Nangal WLSPunjab20191
38Ropar WetlandPunjab200213.65
39Keoladeo National ParkRajasthan198128.73
40Sambhar LakeRajasthan1990240
41Chitrangudi BSTamil Nadu20212.6
42Gulf of Mannar Marine BRTamil Nadu2022526.72
43Kanjirankulam BSTamil Nadu20220.96
44Karikili BSTamil Nadu20220.584
45Koonthankulam BSTamil Nadu20210.72
46Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve ForestTamil Nadu202212.475
47Pichavaram MangroveTamil Nadu202214.786
48Point Calimere WLS & BSTamil Nadu2002385
49Suchindram Theroor Wetland ComplexTamil Nadu20220.94
50Udhayamarthandapuram BSTamil Nadu20220.44
51Vaduvur BSTamil Nadu20221.12
52Vedanthangal BSTamil Nadu20220.4
53Vellode BSTamil Nadu20220.77
54Vembannur Wetland ComplexTamil Nadu20220.2
55Rudrasagar LakeTripura20052.4
56Hokera WetlandUT of JK200513.75
57Hygam Wetland CnRUT of JK20228.02
58Shallbugh Wetland CnRUT of JK202216.75
59Surinsar-Mansar LakesUT of JK20053.5
60Wular LakeUT of JK1990189
61Tso Kar (High Altitude Ramsar Site)UT of Ladakh202095.77
62Tsomoriri (High Altitude Ramsar Site)UT of Ladakh2002120
63Bakhira WLSUttar Pradesh202128.94
64Haiderpur WetlandUttar Pradesh202169
65Nawabganj BSUttar Pradesh20192
66Parvati Arga BSUttar Pradesh20197
67Saman BSUttar Pradesh20195
68Samaspur BSUttar Pradesh20198
69Sandi BSUttar Pradesh20193
70Sarsai Nawar JheelUttar Pradesh20192
71Sur Sarovar (Keetham Lake)Uttar Pradesh20204.31
72Upper Ganga River (Brijghat to Narora)Uttar Pradesh2005265.9
73Asan BarrageUttarakhand20204.44
74East Kolkata WetlandsWest Bengal2002125
75Sundarban Wetland (Largest Ramsar Site in India)West Bengal20194230

Important Facts on Ramsar Sites in World

First Ramsar Site

The first wetland to be designated as a Ramsar Site was the Cobourg Peninsula in Australia, declared in 1974. This marked the beginning of a global effort to recognize and protect vital wetland habitats.

Largest Ramsar Site

The largest Ramsar Site is the Ngiri-Tumba-Maindombe in the Democratic Republic of Congo, covering an area of about 6.57 million hectares. This massive wetland plays a crucial role in maintaining regional biodiversity.

Smallest Ramsar Site

The smallest Ramsar Site is the Monaco Marine Reserve in Monaco, with an area of just 0.04 hectares. Despite its size, it’s significant for the conservation of marine biodiversity in the Mediterranean.

Highest Ramsar Site

The highest Ramsar Site in the world is the Laguna Colorada in Bolivia, located at over 4,300 meters above sea level. This high-altitude saline lake is known for its striking red color and is a vital breeding ground for Andean flamingos.

Wetland of International Importance for Birds

The United Kingdom’s Rutland Water, a Ramsar Site, is famous for being an important overwintering and breeding site for ospreys, which were reintroduced here after a 150-year absence in England.

Urban Ramsar Site

The East Kolkata Wetlands in India are a unique example of an urban wetland that provides essential services such as wastewater treatment and is a source of vegetables and fish for the city, highlighting the harmony between human activity and nature conservation.

Cultural and Historical Significance

The Garaet El Ichkeul in Tunisia, a Ramsar Site, is not only ecologically significant but also of great cultural and historical importance, with the Ichkeul National Park having been a hunting ground for Roman emperors.

Subterranean Wetland

The Sistema Sac Actun in Mexico, one of the world’s largest underwater cave systems, is also a Ramsar Site. This subterranean wetland is home to a diverse range of aquatic species and holds significant geological and archaeological value.

Shared Ramsar Sites

The Prespa Park, shared by Albania, Greece, and North Macedonia, is a transboundary Ramsar Site. This collaboration highlights the importance of international cooperation in the conservation of shared ecological resources.

Artificial Wetland Site

The Hadejia-Nguru Wetlands in Nigeria, although partly natural, include large areas of seasonally flooded land which have been modified for rice cultivation, demonstrating the inclusion of human-modified but ecologically significant sites under the Ramsar Convention.

Country with maximum number of wetlands under the Ramsar Convention

The United Kingdom has designated 175 Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, the highest number of any single country. The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty aimed at conserving wetland habitats. The large number of designated Ramsar Sites in the UK reflects the country’s strong commitment to identifying and protecting ecologically vital wetlands.

Country with Greatest surface area under Ramsar sites

Bolivia has the greatest surface area protected under the Ramsar Convention globally. Although Bolivia has only 7 designated Ramsar Sites, these span a massive 135,288 square kilometers. Most of Bolivia’s Ramsar wetlands are located within three vast lowland nature reserves that harbor exceptional biodiversity and provide refuge for rare and endemic freshwater species as well as indigenous communities. Thus, while having few Ramsar Sites, Bolivia protects immense spans of critical wetland ecosystems.


  1. Sparsh Rai

    August 28, 2018 at 9:09 pm

    Simply Awesome

  2. Vineeth

    August 3, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    An excellent explanation!!


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