India Adds Five More Ramsar Sites
GS Paper 3, Conservation.


India has added five more Ramsar sites, or wetlands of international significance, raising the country’s total to 54. These are the Karikili Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu, the Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest and the Pichavaram Mangrove in Madhya Pradesh, and the Pala Wetlands in Mizoram.

About Ramsar Sites:

  • A Ramsar site is a wetland site classified as having worldwide significance under the Ramsar Convention, also known as “The Convention on Wetlands,” an intergovernmental environmental pact established by UNESCO in 1971 that entered into force in 1975.
  • It calls for national and international action to conserve wetlands and make intelligent, sustainable use of their resources. Ramsar recognises wetlands of worldwide significance, particularly those that provide habitat for waterfowl.

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands:

  • The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an international convention aimed at “wetland conservation and sustainable use.” It is also known as the Wetlands Convention.
  • The Ramsar Accord is a wetland convention that was signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971. The discussions for the treaty began in the 1960s by several governments and NGOs for the conservation of migratory waterbird wetland habitats. It was finally implemented in 1975.
  •  A country must designate at least one wetland as a Wetland of International Importance when it joins the Convention.

Facts Related to Ramsar Sites:

  • It is called after the Iranian city of Ramsar, where it was signed on February 2, 1971.
  • Every year on February 2nd, World Wetlands Day is observed.
  • There are 171 parties to the convention (COP) (as of May 2021).
  • The “wise use” of wetlands is central to the Ramsar concept.
  • Wise use: preservation of ecological character within the framework of long-term development.
  • Inclusion of a “Ramsar Site” on the List demonstrates the government’s commitment to taking the required steps to guarantee that its ecological identity is preserved.
  • The countries with the most Ramsar Sites are the United Kingdom, followed by Mexico.
  • Bolivia has the most Ramsar protected territory.
  • The Sundarbans is India’s biggest Ramsar Site.
  • Chilika Lake in Orissa and Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan were designated as India’s first Ramsar Sites.
  • The Renuka Wetland (Area – 20 hectares) in Himachal Pradesh is India’s smallest wetland.
  • The Cobourg Peninsula in Australia was designated as the world’s first Ramsar site in 1974.


According to the Environment Ministry, a Wetland is “an area of marsh, fen, peatland, 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 metres, but does not include river channels, paddy fields, man-made water bodies/tanks specifically constructed for drinking water purposes, and structures specifically constructed for drinking water purposes.”

Also, Wetlands are defined as “lands transitioning between terrestrial and aquatic systems, with the water table generally at or near the surface or the land covered by shallow water.”

Wetlands Must Have One Or More of The Following Three Characteristics:

  • The land supports predominantly hydrophytes at least periodically;
  • The substrate is predominantly undrained hydric soil; and
  • The substrate is non-soil and is saturated with water or covered by shallow water at some point during the growing season of each year.”

India’s Wetlands:

  • Wetlands account for 6.4% of the world’s land area.
  • According to the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) National Wetland Inventory and Assessment, wetlands cover 1,52,600 square kilometres (sq. km), or 4.63 percent of the country’s total geographical area.

Why Are Wetlands Referred to As Ramsar Sites?

Ramsar is an Iranian city. Ramsar was the site of the signing of an international pact for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands in 1971. The goal of the Convention is to “conserve and wisely utilise all wetlands via local and national efforts and international collaboration, as a contribution to attaining global sustainable development.”

The Importance of Wetlands:

  • Wetlands are an important component of our natural ecosystem. They lessen flood impacts, protect coastlines, and promote community resilience to catastrophes. They also absorb pollutants and improve water quality.
  • Wetlands are essential to human and environmental existence. More than one billion people rely on them for a living, and wetlands are home to 40% of the world’s biodiversity.
  • They are an important source of food, raw materials, genetic resources for pharmaceuticals, and hydropower.
  • Peatland stores 30% of all land-based carbon.
  • They play a significant role in transportation, tourism, and people’s cultural and spiritual well-being.
  • Many wetlands are natural wonders, and many are sacred to Aboriginal people.


  • Wetlands are the most vulnerable environment in the world, according to the IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services).
  • Due to human activity and global warming, wetlands are vanishing three times faster than forests.
  • According to UNESCO, the danger to wetlands would harm 40% of the world’s flora and wildlife that live or reproduce in wetlands.
  • Agriculture, development, pollution, and climate change are major challenges.


  • The IPBES is an independent international organisation formed to enhance the science-policy interaction for biodiversity and ecosystem services in order to conserve and sustainably exploit biodiversity, as well as to promote long-term human well-being and sustainable development.
  • It was founded in April 2012 in Panama City (US).
  • It is not a United Nations organisation.

The Ramsar Convention Is Supported by The Following Organisations:

  • International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN).
  • Birdlife International.
  • The International Water Management Institute (IWMI).
  • Wetlands International.
  • The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT).
  • World Wildlife Fund International.

The Contracting Parties Agree to The Following “Three Pillars” Of the Convention:

  • Try to make better use of all of their wetlands;
  • Nominate appropriate wetlands for the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance and guarantee their proper management.
  • International cooperation on transboundary wetlands, shared wetland systems, and shared species.

The placement of a “Ramsar Site” on the List represents the government’s willingness to take the required efforts to preserve its natural uniqueness.

The Ramsar sites are kept in Montreux Record to document any substantial ecological changes that may have a beneficial or negative impact on any of the wetland habitats.

The Montreux Record:

The Montreux Record is a registry of wetland areas on the Ramsar List of internationally significant wetlands where changes in ecological character have happened, are occurring, or are projected to occur as a result of technological advances, pollution, or other human influence. It is still included on the Ramsar List.

At the moment, two Indian wetlands are in the Montreux Record:

  • Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan, as well as
  • Loktak Lake (Manipur).
  • Chilka Lake (Odisha) was included in the record but later deleted.

The Significance of India in The Central Asian Flyway (CAF):

  • To avoid the severe winters in their breeding areas, dozens of bird species from Central Asia and Siberia migrate to milder tropical regions such as India and the equatorial regions.
  • According to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), the CAF include at least 279 populations of 182 migratory waterbird species, including 29 globally vulnerable and near-threatened species that breed, migrate, and winter within the region.
  • During the winter, these migratory birds use India’s wetlands as feeding and resting areas.

The Importance of Ramsar Listing:

  • The Ramsar secretariat identifying a wetland as a wetland of global importance may not result in further funds from the global organisation.
  • However, from the perspective of management, it is similar to accreditation. It’s similar to ISO certification.
  • According to Uday Vora, a former IFS official and joint secretary of the Gujarat Bird Conservation Society, the Ramsar badge benefits even indirectly. “Because not every Ramsar Site is a registered protected area under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, systematic protection and conservation regimes may not exist.”
  • However, a Ramsar designation obligates authorities to improve the protection regime there as well as construct defences against encroachment, etc. on wetlands..

The 5 new Ramsar sites in India for 2022:

  • Karikili Bird Sanctuary: The Karikili Bird Sanctuary is a 61.21-hectare protected area in Tamil Nadu’s Kancheepuram District. The sanctuary is located around 75 kilometres south of Chengalpattu, about 75 kilometres from Chennai.
  • Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest: Located in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, the Pallikaranai wetland is a freshwater marsh. It is the city’s only surviving wetland habitat and one among the few and last remaining natural wetlands in South India.
  • Pichavaram Mangrove: The Pichavaram mangrove is located in a hamlet near Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore District. The mangrove forest is one of India’s biggest, encompassing 1100 hectares.
  • Pala Wetland: The Pala wetland is Mizoram’s largest natural wetland. The famed landmark is surrounded by beautiful forests and is home to a diverse assortment of animal and bird species.
  • Sakhya Sagar Lake: Sakhya Sagar Lake is a lovely section of the Madhav National Park in Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh.


  • Wetlands are subjected to a variety of variables as a result of these activities and factors emerging from activities occurring beyond the sites, which can result in wetland area loss and degradation of wetland quality.
  • Not all activities carried out in a wetland or its watershed are necessarily intelligent or sustainable, and it is precisely these activities that can contribute to loss and deterioration.
  • Most vulnerable people in the developed world are safeguarded from floods by different structural solutions.
  • Flood barriers are less built in the developing world, and vulnerable communities are more frequently prone to floods, resulting in disruption, economic loss, and, in the worst situations, loss of life.
  • Wetland management is one of the convention’s pillars and one of its key tasks. Under this requirement, the contracting parties must develop and execute plans to support the conservation of the wetlands on the List and, to the greatest extent practicable, the wise use of wetlands on their territory.
  • Education and public awareness initiatives are critical tools for successful and sustainable wetland management, as well as for combating unfavourable attitudes about wetlands.
  • It should be underlined that projects that aim to maintain wetlands, their biodiversity, and the advantages they provide to humanity without the cooperation of a diverse group of people are unlikely to succeed.
  • The Ramsar Convention has placed an emphasis on education and public awareness, stating that in order to effectively implement the convention, a concerted programme of education and public awareness should be organised and implemented at the local, national, regional, and global levels in order to increase knowledge and understanding of wetland values and benefits, and thus develop action toward the conservation and sustainable management of wetland resources.


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