The World Wetlands Day, celebrated around the world on 2nd February each year, marks the adoption of Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in Iran in 1972. The Convention came into force in India since 1982. The theme for this year’s World Wetlands Day is “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction.”[i]
During floods, wetlands can act as natural sponges and absorb intense runoff and discharge, holding more water than most soil types.[ii] This role of wetlands has been demonstrated most powerfully in India in the past few years. Chennai deluge in Nov-Dec 2015 highlighted what happens when wetlands in a city reduce by 2/3rds in just 20 years. Similarly, Kashmir valley lost 50% of its riverine wetlands in just over 30 years, which was one of the main reasons behind the extensive losses during the Sept 2014 Jhelum floods, as corroborated by Dr Asam Rahmani of Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS)[iii]. In 40 years, Bangalore has lost 79% of its wetlands, similar is the case with Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and New Delhi. Bhopal, a city of relatively sloping profile, faced floods twice in 2016, and wetlands, including the rivers in the city are facing existential risks in terms of encroachments[iv].