International Wetlands Day- Let’s take a pledge to save our Wetlands and restore them-Puri
Jaswant Singh Puri / February 2,2023
World Wetlands Day is celebrated annually on 2nd February. Its purpose and aim is to create global awareness about the great role of wetlands for this earth planet and the people. This day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands in Ramsar on 2 February, 1971. The Wetlands are primary source of fresh water for many as they purify and filter the waste from the region and regulate the water supply. Wetlands are formed naturally on every continent, except Antarctica. These are formed by natural processes like flooding of coastal lowlands, from rising sea-levels, periodic flooding of rivers, receding glaciers/melting of glaciers, waterfalls, wave action, irrigation projects etc. Wetlands are classified mainly on the basis of the dominant plants or the sources of water like marshes, swamps, estuaries, springs etc.
Wetlands are important as these are the most productive ecosystems in the world. These have numerous benefits like water storage, flood control, stabilization of shore lines, processing of carbon fixation, storm protection and so on. That is why there is a need to create awareness about wetlands and its preservation.
World Wetlands Day is an environmentally related celebration which dates back to the year of 1971 though it was originally celebrated in 1997. Several environmentalists grouped together to reaffirm the protection and conservation of wetlands so as to bring about ecological health. Many wetlands are being lost and there is a need to recognize them as these are a natural filter and conserver of the world. Each year, a theme is selected to focus attention and help raise public awareness about the value of wetlands. The theme for World Wetlands Day in 2023 is “Wetlands Restoration”.
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International importance is an international treaty for the conservation and befitting use of Ramsar sites. It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran where the convention was signed in 1971. It had 23 signatories. The Ramsar Convention works closely with six other organisations known as International Organisation Partners. These include: Bird Life International, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Wetlands International, WWE International, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT). Dr. Musonda Mumba, Secretary General, Convention on Wetlands said: “To date, nearly 90 percent of the world’s Wetlands have been lost or degraded”. So, there is an urgency to join the World Wetlands Day celebrations. It is now recognized by the United Nations as an International Day. Three actions can spearhead the restoration efforts:
- Creating a national inventory of wetlands.
- To set specific targets for wetland restoration.
- To promote wise use and good management practices.
India has a diverse range of wetlands. It includes high altitude of wetlands in the Himalayas, floodplains of strong flowing rivers like the Brahamputra and the Ganges, lagoons, mangrove swamps along the coast etc. India joined the Ramsar Convention in 1982. Two years ago, it had 42 spots designated as Wetlands of International importance (Ramsar Sites) with a total surface area of 1.08 million hectares. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has been assisting State Governments in the creation of integrated management strategies for 180 wetlands.
Since 1997, World Wetlands Day has been used to raise public awareness. Ramsar has recognised an additional 10 wetland areas of International importance from India. “It is good for us that we have a day dedicated to celebrating wetlands since this allows us to disseminate wetlands knowledge more effectively.”
It is a matter of delight that India has 46 Ramsar sites which include the Chilika Lake in Odisha, Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan, Harike Lake in Punjab, Loktak Lake in Manipur and Wular Lake in Jammu in Kashmir. In May 2021, Sultanpur National Park and Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary (Both in Haryana) were declared Ramsar Sites. Two new Ramsar sites of International Importance, namely Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujrat and Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh were also announced last year.
Indian government under the leadership of Prime Minister is taking affirmative action in halting and reversing wetlands degradation and loss. So let us put our heads together to save the Wetlands and restore them. Some of the past themes have been “No Wetlands, no water”, “Healthy Wetlands, healthy people”.
A month-long Youth Photo contest is being held on the World Wetlands Day website every year since 2015 to educate youth about the conservation of Wetlands. Healthy wetlands are imperative for a healthy earth.
Note: This article is dedicated to Smt. Alka Puri, M.A. (Hindi, B.Ed.). She was the Secretary, Ladies Club, Punjabi University, Patiala during the tenure of Vice-Chancellor Dr. S.S. Johal who was awarded with prestigious award Padma Bhushan in 2004. Smt. Alka Puri was the devoted wife of Dr. Ajit Singh Puri and deeply affectionate mother of Jaswant Singh Puri.
(The views expressed are personal)