Witty World

Monday, February 7, 2011

World's Wetlands Day

It is observed on February 2, every year since 1997, which was also the 16th anniversary of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands signed in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran, by 18 countries. Today the convention has 135 members.

What are Wetlands?

Wetlands are the eco-zones or transitional zones between permanently aquatic and dry terrestrial ecosystems. Wetlands are defined as "areas of marsh, fen , peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters". A wide variety of wetlands like marshes, swamps, open water bodies, mangroves and tidal flats and salt marshes etc. exists in our country.

Importance of Wetlands:

Wetlands are integral to a healthy environment. They have been called the 'nature's kidneys' because they cleanse our environment. If you ever thought that wetlands had no value, consider the following.

Wetlands help in:

  • Controlling floods
  • Water storage or supply
  • Water purification, retention of pollutants/nutrients/sediments
  • Ground water recharge or discharge, maintenance of underground water tables
  • Freshwater cycle
  • Staging ground for waterfowl, nurseries for fisheries and wildlife
  • Stabilization of local climate
  • Protecting bio-diversity
  • Recreation, tourism and cultural heritage
  • Providing livelihoods to local people

Some facts about wetlands:

  • More than ½ of the worlds remaining wetlands have been destroyed in the 20thcentury, especially in developing countries by the demands of industrialization.
  • 1/3rd of Indian wetlands has already been wiped out or has been severely degraded.
  • Coastal wetlands provide nearly 12% of the total fish catch.
  • Nearly 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe freshwater, and nearly 1.7 billion people live in water scarce areas. (Source: The World Summit on Sustainable Development, 2002)
  • One of the most important wetlands in India is the Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, Rajasthan, which is a manmade wetland. Various migratory birds visit this park almost every winter.
  • Chilka in Orissa is another important wetland and is the largest (1100 sq km) Brackish-water Lake in India.
  • The Government identifies 6,48,507 hectares as wetland in India.



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