Wetlands

World Wetlands Day 2021: Five new Ramsar sites in 2020 but threats remain

On the Feb 2 2021, the World Wetlands Day, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands would also complete its 50 years. The global treaty popularly known as Ramsar Convention was adopted in 1971 and came into force in 1975 following decades of negotiations.

The main objective of the treaty is to promote conservation and wise use of all wetlands through regional actions and international cooperation. Currently, the treaty has been accepted by 171 nations including India. There are 2414 Wetlands of International Importance under Ramsar treaty spreading over 254,540,512 ha of lands across the globe.

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Wetlands

Wetlands Overview 2020: Judiciary is active, but remains ineffective

The highlight of the overview of wetlands in India in 2020 here (keeping aside the Wetlands related developments in Maharashtra in 2020 and Positive wetlands related developments in 2020, on both these subjects we have published separate reports), is that the National Green Tribunal (NGT), various High Courts and even the Supreme Court have been quite active on wetlands front, but there is very little impact of this on the wetlands and their governance in India. This is basically because, and this is the second key highlight of this overview, the central and state governments have shown almost no interest, understanding or will to protect the wetlands. This is in spite of the huge number of new Indian wetlands brought under the Ramsar convention in 2020, since experience and also this overview shows that Ramsar convention does not seem to particularly help the fate of the wetlands. The third highlight of the overview is that there is a lot of civil society effort, both in terms of advocacy and work on ground for the protection of wetlands in India. In fact the legal action that we see in the NGT and Courts is largely due to their efforts. In fact whatever little positive developments we see here is coming from community and civil society efforts.

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Wetlands

Wetlands 2020: Positive Developments

Pondicherry Collector led the revival of over 300 waterbodies The then District Collector and present Secretary to the Chief Minister, A. Vikranth Raja, stepped in with the idea of digging into revenue records to locate the region’s traditional water bodies.  It all started with a query raised at the meeting. When someone asked if Karaikal had the capacity to store 7 tmcft of river water allotted by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, “the response from officials was an emphatic no,” says Selvaganesh, Assistant, District Collectorate of Karaikal.

In June 2019, in the tiny coastal enclave of Karaikal, administration officers brainstormed about putting in place a sustainable water resource management model for the town’s two lakh people. They found 549 ponds within a small territory spread over 157 sq. km. 40% of these water bodies were in various stages of extinction. Most of them turned out to be dumping yards.

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Wetlands

Maharashtra Wetlands Overview 2020

[The feature photo of Flamingos at NRI colony in Navi Mumbai above is by Vidyasagar Hariharan, from The Guardian Dated March 26, 2019.]

In 2020, Maharashtra has seen some interesting developments around wetlands, driven by initiatives by activists like D Stalin among many others, and at times supported by judiciary. After an example of some individuals’ courage to save an 80 ha of wetland, we look at state level wetlands issue, followed by some interesting developments around some specific wetlands like Dhamapur Lake (Sindhudurg dist) and Lonar (Buldana dist). Maharashtra govt claimed in High Court that in three districts of Nandurbar, Nagpur and Parbhani, there are no wetlands at all. The flip flops here is tragic as the ISRO report had shown over 2000 wetlands in these districts. Next is the Mumbai wetlands, Uran wetlands, Panje wetland and two other wetlands where CIDCO has been pushing real estate projects. The overview ends with some Supreme Court petitions. There is lot of action, but no very optimistic trends in spite of some individual actions and positive developments at some individual wetlands.

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Dams · Fish Sanctuaries · Fish, Fisheries, Fisherfolk · Free flowing rivers · Karnataka · Western Ghats · Wetlands · Wild and Scenic Rivers Act

People of the free-flowing Aghanashini

“I don’t know my age. But I know that I have been coming to this river since I was a child everyday to collect bivalves.” Janaki Amma told us while wading waist-deep in the Aghanashini estuary. Janaki Amma is at least 70 years old and has the agility of a ballet dancer as she plunges inside the limpid water one more time, and comes up with a new haul of bivalves in a wicker basket tied to her waist.

On the banks of the river, Thulasi and Sumitra sit laughing on an old wooden boat, as only old friends can. They collect bivalves too. They have never seen the river not having the shiny, black bivalves. Throughout Aghanashini Estuary, we hear this again and again: fisherfolk and rice farmers, priests and devotees, older women and solid middle-aged men: all echoing the sentiment: “Our lives are entwined with the river.” Continue reading “People of the free-flowing Aghanashini”

Dams · Wetlands

India Ramsar Wetlands in Crisis in 2020

Ramsar wetlands in India require urgent intervention for central, state governments and Ramsar Convention as this 2020 report shows. The five regional reports from India in 2020 show that despite Ramsar tag, the fate of these wetlands has seen no marked improvement. This raises the question as to how helpful for wetlands in India is the Ramsar tag.

In 2019, India has added 10 more wetlands selected under Ramsar Convention taking total number of Ramsar wetlands in the country to 37 covering about 10,679.39 sq km area across 15 different Indian States and two Union Territories (UTs).  A description of each of India’s 37 Ramsar wetlands, as given on official Ramsar website is given in Annexure below. A decade after the first meeting at Ramsar in Iran for wetland protection in 1971, India got its first wetlands, Chilika lake (Odisha) and Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan) registered as Ramsar wetland of global significance in Oct 1981.

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Dams · Wetlands

Ramsar Wetlands in Crisis: South India

Out of six states/ Union Territory in South India, three stares have five Ramsar wetlands sites which include one each in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and three in Kerala. There are no Ramsar wetlands in Telangana, Karnataka and Puducherry. In order to understand and highlight the present day situation of Ramsar sites in India, SANDRP has compiled information on all 37 wetlands under North, West, North East and East zone. This account in the series describes the threats affecting the Ramsar sites in South Indian States.

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Dams · Wetlands

Ramsar Wetlands in Crisis: East India

In East India there are four Ramsar wetlands: two each in W Bengal and Odisha states. There are no Ramsar wetland sites in Bihar, Jharkhand or Sikkim, the other East India states. Here we provide a status of these Ramsar sites of East India, along with the kind of risks and threats these Ramsar sites face. The objective is to ensure greater awareness about these issues and hope that this will help achieve better responses from Ramsar convention as also the governments at various levels.

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Dams · Wetlands

Ramsar Wetlands Crisis: North East India

There are three Ramsar sites in eight states of north east India which includes Deepor Beel in Assam, Loktak lake in Manipur and Rudrasagar in Tripura. There are no Ramsar wetlands in remaining North East India states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalya, Sikkim. Here is an account of issues these Ramsar sites are facing.

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Loktak Development Authority · Manipur · Wetlands · Wetlands Conservation Rules 2017

Critique of the Loktak Inland Waterways Improvement Project

Guest Blog by Shripad Dharmadhikary&  Ram Wangkheirakpam

The Loktak Inland Waterways Improvement Project (LIWIP) essentially aims to extend and expand the motorised inland transport on the Loktak Lake wetland, by augmenting the machinery and equipment that will clear the lake of all obstructions to the water transport. It promises to be a “community welfare” project, with the benefits including growth in trade and commerce, eco-tourism and livelihoods and job creation, all due to the motorised water transport that will increase the ease and means of transport. Continue reading “Critique of the Loktak Inland Waterways Improvement Project”