he Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
The Convention uses a broad definition of the types of wetlands covered in its mission, including swamps and marshes, lakes and rivers, wet grasslands and peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, near-shore marine areas, mangroves and coral reefs, and human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs, and salt pans.
The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 162 Contracting Parties to the Convention, with 2,040 wetland sites, totaling 193 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. Under the 3 pillars of the Convention, the Parties have committed themselves to:
- Work towards the wise use of all their wetlands through national land-use planning, appropriate policies and legislation, management actions, and public education;
- Designate suitable wetlands for the List of Wetlands of International Importance and ensure their effective management; and
- Cooperate internationally concerning transboundary wetlands, shared wetland systems, shared species, and development projects that may affect wetlands.
The Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP) meets every 3 years and promotes policies and guidelines to further the application of the Convention. The Standing Committee, made up of Parties representing the 6 Ramsar regions of the world, meets annually to guide the Convention between meetings of the COP. The Scientific and Technical Review Panel provides guidance on key issues for the Convention. The Ramsar Secretariat manages the day-to-day activities of the Convention. The MedWet Initiative, with its Secretariat in Athens, provides a model for regional wetland cooperation now being emulated by regional initiatives under the Convention in many parts of the world.
Nationally, each Contracting Party designates an Administrative Authority as its focal point for implementation of the Convention. Countries are encouraged to establish National Wetland Committees, involving all government sectors dealing with water resources, development planning, protected areas, biodiversity, tourism, education, development assistance, etc. Participation by NGOs and civil society is also encouraged.
Ramsar sites facing problems in maintaining their ecological character can be placed by the country concerned on a special list, the Montreux Record, and technical assistance to help solve the problems can be provided. Eligible countries can apply to a Ramsar Small Grants Fund and Wetlands for the Future Fund for financial assistance to implement wetland conservation and wise use projects.
Indian Ramsar Sites
The convention entered into force in India on 1 February 1982. India currently has 26 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 689,131 hectares.
The sites are:
- Ashtamudi Wetland
- Bhitarkanika Mangroves
- Kanjli Wetland
- Keoladeo National Park
- Kolleru Lake
- Bhoj Wetland
- Hokera Wetland
- Chandra Taal
- Chilika Lake
- Deepor Beel
- East Calcutta Wetlands
- Harike Wetland
- Loktak Lake
- Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary
- Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary
- Pong Dam Lake
- Renuka Lake
- Ropar Wetland
- Rudrasagar Lake
- Sambhar Lake
- Sasthamkotta Lake
- Surinsar-Mansar Lakes
- Upper Ganga River (Brijghat to Narora Stretch)
- Wular Lake
- Vembanad-Kol Wetland
National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP)
This programme was launched in 1986 and has identified some 115 wetlands for urgent protection and conservation.