Any area of water, natural or artificial,static or flowing , the depth of which at low tide does not exceed 6(Six) meters is a wetland .Article 1.1 of Ramsar Convention ,1971 and Section 2(g) of Wetland(Conservation and management) Rules, 2010 of India support this definition .Practically all tanks , lakes ,and rivers are wetlands. Uttar Pradesh in India has 2508 wetlands with an area above 3 hectares and 1193 wetlands with an area above 50 hectares and above.Some of the well known wetlands of U.P. are Nawabganj , Samaspur, Lakh Bahosi,Sandi, Patna Jheel, Keetham Lake(Sur Sarovar, Chambal), Sarsai Nawar and Samaan.
Ram Sar is the first of the modern , global international treaties on the conservation of natural resources.The convention was held in 1971 and has 160 member states.India formally ratified the convention on February 1 , 1982.It was only in 2010 that India enacted Wetland(conservation and management) Rules.The mission of RamSar Convention on wetlands is:"The conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local , regional and national activities and international cooperation , as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development through out the world".
What values and benefits wetlands bring us?These are:
1.Water supply .By 2025, two out of every three people on Earth may face life in water stressed conditions .
3.Agriculture through maintenance of water tables and nutrient retention in flood plains.
4.habitats supporting biodiversity, flora and fauna.Plant genetic materials.
7.Recreation and tourism opportunities.
Wetland are the world's most threatened eco-systems because:
1.Agriculture's growing demand for land and water.Wetlands continue to be drained and reclaimed to make farming land available.
2.Urban expansion .
6.Sedimentation and siltation .
7.Climate change causing reduced rainfall in some areas and excessive rainfall and flooding in some other areas.
8.Over exploitation due to various benefits.
For all these reasons , we need to take steps to conserve and manage wetlands better.
For conservation of wetlands , there are three pillars of action :
1.Wise use of wetlands.
2.Identifying and managing wetlands of international importance .U.P. has only one such wetland , Upper Ganga Canal.There are 26 such sites in India.
3.Co-operating internationally .
The wise use of wetlands has three distinct areas:
1.Adopt National Wetland policies .India did it in 2010 by framing Rules.
2.Develop programmes of wetlands inventory,monitoring , research , training , education and public awareness.
3.Integrated management of wetlands.
The Central and state governments , local bodies and communities are responsible for such wise use.
Every state has a State level Steering Committee under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary.The National Wetlands Conservation Scheme provides funds for conservation of wetlands, 70% from centre and 30% from state.These funds are highly inadequate to meet the needs of wetlands.
The theme for 2014 world wetlands day is:"Wetlands and Agriculture;Partners in growth".
We need to focus on those agricultural practices which support and preserve healthy wetlands.Agriculture is important for wetlands because 70% of all withdrawls from surface water and ground water is used for agriculture.Also 19% estimated increase is likely to happen by 2050 over current rates of global agricultural water consumption.
There is a need for awareness to conserve wetlands at community level .Many departments like Forests , Environment , Agriculture , Urban Development and Land (Revenue) departments need to act in co-ordination to conserve wetlands .Involvement of local bodies , Panchyats ,as well as urban local bodies is also essential .Agencies entrusted with eco-tourism should take a lead to preserve wetlands and encourage bird watching .
I end with this quote by Adlai Stevenson:"It is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them'