The question “Comment on the National Wetland Conservation Programme initiated by the Government of India and name a few India’s wetlands of international importance included in the Ramsar Sites." was asked in the Mains 2023 GS Paper 3. Let us look at the model answer to this question.
Answer: The National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP) was launched in 1985, it seeks to address the mounting threats to these fragile wetland ecosystems and promote their conservation. Furthermore, it aligns with international efforts to protect wetlands, including designating certain sites as Ramsar Sites, signifying their global significance.
The key objectives of NWCP includes:
- Identification and Assessment: The program involves the identification and delineation of wetlands across India. This process includes surveys and scientific assessments to categorise wetlands based on their ecological, hydrological, and socio-economic significance.
- Conservation and Management: Once identified, the wetlands are subjected to conservation and management measures to prevent degradation. These actions include habitat restoration, controlling pollution, and managing water resources sustainably.
- Capacity Building: The program emphasises capacity building at the local, state, and national levels. Training and awareness programs are conducted to involve local communities and stakeholders in wetland conservation efforts.
- Research and Monitoring: Ongoing research and monitoring activities are crucial for understanding the dynamic nature of wetlands and assessing the effectiveness of conservation measures.
- Legal Framework: The NWCP supports the development and enforcement of legal and policy frameworks for wetland conservation and protection.
Some of the wetlands of international importance included in the Ramsar Sites in India are:
- Chilika Lake, Odisha: Chilika Lake is the largest coastal lagoon in India and a crucial stopover point for migratory birds on the East Asia-Australasia Flyway. It supports a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna, including the Irrawaddy dolphin.
- Sundarbans, West Bengal: The Sundarbans mangrove forest is home to the Bengal tiger and numerous other endangered species. It serves as a buffer against coastal erosion and tidal surges while providing livelihoods for local communities.
- Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan: Formerly known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, this wetland is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a haven for migratory birds, particularly waterfowl and waders. It is included in the Montreux record.
- Loktak Lake, Manipur: Loktak Lake is known for its unique floating Phumdis (massive floating islands). It supports a diverse range of aquatic life and is home to the endangered Manipur brow-antlered deer (Sangai deer). It is included in the Montreux record.
- Kaziranga National Park, Assam: While primarily renowned for its population of one-horned rhinoceroses, Kaziranga National Park also features significant wetland ecosystems.
- Bhitarkanika Mangroves, Odisha: This region harbours a unique biodiversity, including saltwater crocodiles, a variety of fish species, and numerous bird species.
These Ramsar Sites in India are not only biodiversity hotspots but also play a vital role in regulating local and global climate, maintaining hydrological cycles, and supporting the livelihoods of communities residing in their vicinity. The designation of Ramsar Sites further emphasises the international importance of Indian wetlands. However, continuous monitoring, research, and community engagement are necessary to ensure the long-term protection and sustainable management of these wetlands, not only for the benefit of India but also for the global environment and biodiversity.