India has increased the number of Ramsar sites—designated as Wetlands of International Importance—from 75 to 80 prior to the World Wetlands Day 2024. The recently added sites include the Ankasamudra Bird Conservation Reserve in Karnataka, the Aghanashini Estuary, the Magadi Kere Conservation Reserve, the Karaivetti Bird Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu, and the Longwood Shola Reserve Forest in Tamil Nadu. With these additions, the overall area covered by Ramsar sites has increased from the previous 1.327 million hectares to 1.33 million hectares, an increase of 5,523.87 hectares. With sixteen Ramsar sites, Tamil Nadu is the state with the highest number, followed by Uttar Pradesh with ten sites.
India, a signatory to the Ramsar Convention since 1982, celebrates World Wetlands Day on 2 February to commemorate the adoption of the international agreement on wetlands in 1971. India now has 80 Ramsar sites, up from 26 in the previous ten years, with 38 more added in the last three years alone.
World Wetlands Day (WWD) is observed on February 2 of each year to raise awareness of the vital role these ecosystems play in both our daily lives and the health of the planet. The theme for this year is "Wetlands and Human Wellbeing," which emphasizes the close relationship between wetlands' health and our own. More than 100,000 species depend on these essential freshwater habitats, which provide the basis for human existence.
During the 75th Year of Independence, earlier in August 2022, India accomplished a noteworthy milestone by bringing the total number of Ramsar Sites to 75. The number of Ramsar sites has expanded from 26 to 80 in the previous ten years, with 38 added in the last three years alone, thanks to a major policy push by the Indian government. Talking about the country with maximum number of Ramsar sites in the world, United Kingdom tops the chart with 175 Ramsar sites.
Source: PMF IAS
Sunderban wetland in West Bengal is the largest Ramsar site in India covering an area of 4,230 sq. km while Renuka Lake in Himachal Pradesh is the smallest Ramsar site in the country covering an area of 0.2 sq. km.
United Kingdom tops the chart with highest number of Ramsar sites in the world with 175. Mexico stands on second position with 144, China on third with 82 and India on fourth with 80, Sweden on fifth with 76 and Spain stands on the sixth position with 68 Ramsar sites. The increasing number of Ramsar sites in India displays the sincere efforts taken by the government in the conservation of wetlands and making them suitable for flora and fauna to flourish. In order to spread awareness about the importance of Ramsar sites and ensure maximum participation of the international community, 2nd February is celebrated as World Wetlands Day.
On January 18, 2024, five new sites were added to the list of Ramsar Sites in India, three of which are located in Karnataka and two in Tamil Nadu.
Aghanashini Estuary: 84 fish species, five bivalves’ species, 45 mangrove species, and 117 bird species may be found in this 4801-hectare estuary in Uttara Kannada district. For several endangered bird species, such as the Indian skimmer and the black-necked stork, it serves as a crucial breeding habitat.
Magadi Kere Conservation Reserve: This 54.38 hectare human-made wetland in the Gadag district is home to around 166 species of birds, 130 of which are migratory. In addition to being an Important Bird Area, it is one of the biggest bar-headed geese wintering grounds in southern India.
Ankasamudra Bird Conservation Reserve: Located in the Vijayanagara district, this 98-hectare irrigation tank serves as a crucial home for both resident and migratory birds. It is home to over 200 species of birds, including the painted stork, the Asian openbill, and the spot-billed pelican.
Over 200 different species of birds may be seen at the 453-hectare Karaivetti Bird Sanctuary in the Ariyalur district. Notable species include the painted stork, black-headed ibis, and spot-billed pelican. For several endangered bird species, such as the Indian skimmer and the grey-headed lapwing, it serves as a crucial breeding habitat.
A combination of shola grasslands, evergreen forests, and wetlands may be found in the 1,223 hectare Longwood Shola Reserve Forest in the Nilgiri Hills. Numerous endangered species, such as the Nilgiri wood pigeon, Nilgiri langur, and Nilgiri tahr, depend on it as a vital habitat.