In Focus: Wetlands, Wetlands in India, Why are wetlands important?, Ramsar Convention, Ramsar Sites in India, Tso Kar

India adds Tso Kar wetland complex to Ramsar Site

In News:

  • India has added Tso Kar Wetland Complex in Ladakh as its 42nd Ramsar site, the second one in the Union Territory (UT) of Ladakh.

In Focus: Wetlands

What are Wetlands?

  • The wetlands are actually land areas covered by water, either temporarily/seasonally or permanently.
  • The wetlands play a key role in hydrological cycle and flood control, water supply andproviding food, fibre and raw materials.
  • It includes:swamps, marshesbillabongs, lakes, lagoonssaltmarshes, mudflatsmangroves, coral reefsbogs, fens, and peatlands.

Wetlands in India:

  • As per the National Wetlands Atlas given by ISRO, India has 15.26 million ha area underwetlands, roughly equal to 4.6% of its land area.
  • Of this, inland wetlands constitute 69.22% (10.56 million ha). Nearly 12% of the inlandwetland area is in the form of lakes and ponds (including those less than 2.25 ha).
  • Examples of India’s prominent wetlands are Chilika lake (Odisha), Wular lake (J&K), Sambhar lake (Rajasthan), Deepor Beel (Assam) and East Kolkata wetlands (West Bengal).

Why are wetlands important?

  • Wetlands are a critical part of our natural environment and are vital link between land and water.
  • Wetlands provide a wide range of important resources and ecosystem services such as food, water, fibre, groundwater recharge, water purification, flood moderation, erosion control and climate regulation.
  • They are a major source of water and India’s main supply of freshwater comes from an array of wetlands which help soak rainfall and recharge groundwater.
  • They prevent land degradation and desertification.
  • They protect shores from wave action, reduce the impacts of floods, absorb pollutants and improve water quality.
  • They provide habitat for animals and plants hosting a huge diversity of life, including that of migratory birds.
  • Wetlands also provide important benefits for industry. For example, they form nurseries for fish and other freshwater and marine life and are critical to commercial and recreational fishing industries.

About: Ramsar Convention

  • Ramsar Convention(signed in 1971) is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
  • It is one of the oldest inter-governmental accord signed by members countries to preserve the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance.
  • Aim: The aim of the Ramsar list is to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits.
    • Wetlands declared as Ramsar sites are protected under strict guidelines of the convention.
  • Criteria: Wetlands can be designated to the Ramsar List under any (one or more) of the nine criteria that ranges from uniqueness of the site to those based on species and ecological communities supported.
  • Globally, there are over 2,300 Ramsar sites around the world, covering over 2.1 million sq km.

About: Ramsar Sites in India

As of 2019, there were 27 Ramsar sites in India:

10 sites were included in the list in January 2020:

  • Nandur Madhameshwar bird sanctuary (Maharashtra- first site from the state)
  • Beas conservation reserve, Keshopur-Miani community reserve and Nangal wildlife sanctuary (Punjab)
  • Nawabganj bird sanctuary, Parvati Arga bird sanctuary, Saman bird sanctuary, Sarsai Nawar lake, Samaspur bird sanctuary and Sandi bird sanctuary (Uttar Pradesh)

4 more sites were included in October-November 2020 to take Ramsar sites to 41:

  • Kabartal (Bihar)
  • Asan Conservation Reserve (Uttrakhand)
  • Sur Sarovar, also known as Keetham lake (Uttar Pradesh)
  • Lonar Lake (Maharashtra)

News Summary:

  • In a significant development to conservation of biodiversity, India has added Tso Kar Wetland Complex in Ladakh as its 42nd Ramsar site or ‘Wetland of International Importance’.
  • This is the second one in the Union Territory (UT) of Ladakh, after Tsomoriri (Lake Moriri).
  • At 42, India has the highest number of Ramsar sites in South Asia.

About: Tso Kar

  • Tso Kar is at more than 4,500 metres above sea level in the Changthang region of Ladakh.
  • Tso Kar Wetland Complex includes two connected lakes, the freshwater lake “Startsapuk Tso” and the larger hypersaline lake “Tso Kar”.
  • The name Tso Kar (White Lake) refers to the white salt efflorescence on the margins of the lake caused by the evaporation of the saline waters.

  • The local climate is arid, and glacial meltwater is the primary water source for the lakes.
  • Biodiversity:
    • The lakes and in particular the presence of fresh water attract biodiversity in a biologically sparse region.
    • The site is habitat of numerous threatened species including:
      • the endangered saker falcon (Falco cherrug)
      • Asiatic wild dog or dhole (Cuon alpinus laniger)
      • the vulnerable snow leopard (Panthera uncia).
    • The Site also acts as an important stopover ground for migratory birds along the Central Asian Flyway and is one of the most important breeding areas in India for the black-necked crane (Grus nigricollis).

 Environment & Ecology

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