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Are We Bothered About Our Wetlands?

By Rachana S Pillai

Every year we celebrate ‘World Environment Day’ on 5th June, which was yesterday. After the initial ceremonies, debates, lectures and planting of saplings everybody forgets about the saplings which were planted and also about the environment. Speaking about environment most of you won’t be aware of another important day - ‘World Wetland Day’ which is celebrated on the 2nd February of each year. This date happens to be the date of adoption of the Convention of Wetlands in the year 1971 in Iran‘s Ramsar city. This year the theme for celebration was ‘Wetland and Biodiversity’ so as to emphasize the need for saving this ecosystem which is deteriorating not only in our country but all over the world.

Wetlands are areas seasonally or permanently covered by water which can either be saltwater or fresh water. It is found close to the periphery of water bodies such as river, lakes, ponds etc. and where the water table is close to the surface. Historically societies have flourished when developed around major water bodies. Environmental conservation and enhancement of life support systems like land, water, forests and biodiversity is the need of the hour. One such area where the maximum attention is required is the wetlands as due to human intervention these are the most degraded of all ecosystems.

The ‘Ramsar Convention’ designated many such wetlands which are endangered commonly known as the ‘Ramsar Sites’. As per the updated list there are 27 such sites in India. In the north-east of India there are 3 Ramsar sites – Deepor Beel (beel means Lake in Assamese) in Guwahati, Assam, Loktak Lake in Manipur and Rudrasagar in Tripura. The Deepor Beel is considered to be the last global stronghold for Greater Adjutant Stork (Leptoptilosdubius). Assam has the largest colony of this stork. This species is the world’s most endangered stork. Deepor Beel is also a ‘Biodiversity Hotspot’ for migratory birds.

Infilling in wetlands, loss of biodiversity like destruction of plant species is causing the loss of species which frequently depend on these plants. Another major factor affecting most wetlands in our country is the disposal of solid wastes and sewage into water bodies and its surrounding area. This ceases the water’s natural purification process.

Wetland management and restoration is a relatively new growing science. With the wetland rules being revised in the year 2017 a comprehensive inventory involving the flora, fauna and biodiversity is the present day’s requirement. The survival and well being of any nation depend on sustainable, social and economic progress thatsatisfies the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the interest, survival and growth of the future generations.

Environmental conservation is an integral part of socio-economic development which also includes ‘Wetlands’.

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