Ramsar: From convention to criteria

CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu is now the first State to have 10 Ramsar sites, which is the highest in the country.

The Union government on Thursday added 6 more sites to the existing list in Tamil Nadu.

India and China now have the largest number of wetlands of international importance with 10 more Indian sites entering the Ramsar list, taking the total to 64, says the Union Environment Ministry.

India is aiming at getting a Ramsar tag for 75 of its wetlands on the 75th year of Independence, according to officials.

Check out the list of Ramsar sites in Tamil Nadu:

1. Pallikaranai Marshland in Chennai

2. Karikili in Chengalpattu

3. Pichavaram in Cuddalore

4. Koothankulam Bird Sanctuary in Tirunelveli

5. Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve near Rameshwaram

6. Vellode Bird Sanctuary in Erode

7. Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary in Chengalpattu

8. Udhayamarthandapuram Bird Sanctuary in Tiruvarur

9. Vembannur Wetland Complex in Kanniyakumari

10. Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary in Nagapattinam

What is a Ramsar site?

The Ramsar list aims at developing and maintaining an international network of wetlands, which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life, through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits.

The sites include mangroves, marshes, rivers, lakes, deltas, floodplains and flooded forests, rice fields, coral reefs, and marine areas which are no deeper than 6 meters at low tide. It also includes human-made wetlands such as waste-water treatment ponds and reservoirs.

Ramsar Convention

The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It was signed in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. The negotiations to safeguard wetlands were started in the 1960s by different countries. It came into force in 1975. There are 51 Ramsar Sites in India listed under the Ramsar Convention.

Evolution of Ramsar Convention

  • 1962: MAR Conference called for an International Treaty for wetlands

  • 1963-1970: Text for the Ramsar Convention was negotiated

  • 1971: Ramsar Conference took place and 18 nations agreed to the convention on wetlands of International importance especially as waterfowl habitat

  • 1974: Australia was the first country to accede to the convention

  • 1974: First Ramsar site, declared – Australia’s Cobourg Peninsula.

  • 1975: Convention came into force

  • 1981: India became the contracting party to the convention – Chilika Lake & Keoladeo National Park declared Ramsar sites.

Nine criteria to be fulfilled to get the recognition:

Criterion 1: If a site contains a representative, rare, or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic region.

Criterion 2: If a site supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities.

Criterion 3: Site supporting populations of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region.

Criterion 4: A site should support plant and/or animal species at a critical stage in their life cycles, or provide refuge during adverse conditions.

Criterion 5: If site regularly supports 20,000 or more waterbirds.

Criterion 6: If a site regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of waterbird.

Criterion 7: A significant proportion of indigenous fish subspecies, species or families, life-history stages, species interactions and/or populations that are representative of wetland benefits and/or values ​​and thereby contribute to global biological diversity.

Criterion 8: If the site is an important source of food for fish, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks, either within the wetland or elsewhere, depends.

Criterion 9: Site should regularly support 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of wetland-dependent non-avian animal species.

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