Wetlands are transitional land between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where water table is usually at or near surface. It includes diverse habitats ranging from lakes, estuaries, river flood plains, mangroves, coral reef etc.
Wetlands are fully or partially immersed in water for a part or whole of the year. Wetlands cover at least six per cent of the Earth and have become a focal issue for conservation due to the ecosystem services they provide.
Importance of Wetlands.
• Provides shelter for a variety of birds
• Suitable habitats for fish and other flora and fauna.
• Effective in flood control
• Waste water treatment (Phytoremediation)
• Reducing sediment loads and recharging of aquifers.
• Plays a vital role in carbon sequestration
Ramsar is a city in Iran where the first World Convention on Wetlands was held on 2 February 1971 (Marking this date, Wetland Day is celebrated every year on 2nd February).
The Ramsar Convention defines wetlands as: ‘Wetlands are area of marsh, fen, peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water, the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.’
Ramsar convention is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. The Sunderban Reserve Forest spread over 4,260 sq. km.of mangrove forests and creeks, was declared a Ramsar Site on 1 February 2019 making it the 27th Ramsar site in India.
Threats to wetland
Threats to wetland ecosystems comprise the increasing biotic and abiotic pressures.
• Uncontrolled siltation and weed infestation
• Uncontrolled discharge of waste water, industrial effluents
• Surface run-off, etc. resulting in proliferation of aquatic weeds
• Habitat destruction leading to loss of fish and decrease in number of migratory birds
• Encroachment resulting in shrinkage of area.
• Anthropogenic pressures resulting in habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity.
• Uncontrolled dredging.
• Hydrological intervention resulting in loss of aquifers.
• Pollution from point and non-point sources resulting in deterioration of water quality.
• Ill-effects of fertilizers and insecticides used in adjoining agricultural fields.
Wetland conservation is an integrated approach in terms of planning, execution and monitoring which requires effective knowledge on a range of subjects from ecology, economics, watershed management, and planners etc. All this helps in understanding wetlands better and evolving a more comprehensive solution for long-term conservation and management strategies.
Few methods for Wetland Conservation
1) Creation of buffer zones for wetlands protection:
Creating buffer zones and limiting anthropogenic activities around the demarcated area of the wetland could prevent wetland from degradation.
2) Wetland Maping Using GIS
Geographic Information System (GIS) and remote sensing technologies have proven to be useful for mapping and monitoring wetland resources. Recent advances in geospatial technologies have greatly increased the availability of remotely sensed imagery with better and finer spatial, temporal, and spectral resolution.
3) Community Support :
Wetland management or conservation of wetland ecosystem requires an integrated, broad-based inter-agency partnership all working towards a common goal involving the educational institutions, Forest Department, City Corporation, Irrigation Department, Public Works Department (PWD) and Pollution Control Board.
The active participation of local community, conservation organisations, NGO's, and citizens’ groups with active support from the media at all levels of planning, executing and monitoring is required for implementation of measures to meet the set goals.