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Wetlands of India

Wetlands are areas where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and the associated plant and animal life...

Wetlands are areas where water is the primary factor controlling the environment and the associated plant and animal life. They occur where the water table is at or near the surface of the land, or where the land is covered by water.

 Types of Wetlands

  • Coastal Wetlands: Coastal wetlands, including shorelines, beaches, mangroves, and coral reefs, exist in the areas between land and open sea that are not impacts by rivers.
    • A good example is the mangrove swamps found in sheltered tropical coastal areas.
  • Shallow lakes and ponds: These wetlands are areas of permanent or semi-permanent water with little flow. They include vernal ponds, spring pools, salt lakes and volcanic crater lakes.
  • Marshes: Periodically saturated, flooded, or ponded with water, these areas are characterized by herbaceous vegetation adapted to wet soil conditions. They further classify as tidal marshes and non-tidal marshes.
  • Swamps: These are feed primarily by surface water inputs and are dominate by trees and shrubs. Swamps occur in either freshwater or saltwater floodplains.
  • Bogs: Bogs are waterlogged peatlands in old lake basins or depressions in the landscape. Almost all water in bogs comes from rainfall.
  • Estuaries: The area where rivers meet the sea and water changes from fresh to salt can offer an extremely rich mix of biodiversity. These wetlands include deltas, tidal mudflats and salt marshes.

 Status of Wetlands

  • As of February, 2022, India has a network of 49 Ramsar sites covering an area of 10,93,636 hectares, the highest in South Asia.
  • India has nearly 4.6% of its land as wetlands, covering an area of 15.26 million hectares.
    • Wetlands declared as Ramsar sites are protected under strict guidelines of the convention.
  • There are currently over 2400 Ramsar sites in the world covering an area of 2.5 million sq. kilometres.

 Threats to Wetlands

  • Agriculture: Vast stretches of wetlands have convert to paddy fields. Construction of a large number of reservoirs, canals and dams to provide for irrigation significantly altered the hydrology of the associated wetlands.
  • Urbanization: Wetlands near urban centres are under increasing developmental pressure for residential, industrial and commercial facilities. Urban wetlands are essential for preserving public water supplies.
  • Pollution: Wetlands act as natural water filters. However, they can only clean up the fertilizers and pesticides from agricultural runoff but not mercury from industrial sources and other types of pollution.
    • There is growing concern about the effect of industrial pollution on drinking water supplies and the biological diversity of wetlands.
  • Dredging: The removal of material from a wetland or river bed. Dredging of streams lowers the surrounding water table and dries up adjacent wetlands.
  • Climate Change: Increased air temperature; shifts in precipitation; increased frequency of storms, droughts, and floods; increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration; and sea level rise could also affect wetlands.
  • Introduced Species:Foreign introduced plant species such as water hyacinth and salvinia threaten Indian wetlands.They clog waterways and compete with native vegetation.
  • Draining: Cutting ditches into the ground drains water from wetlands and transports it out of the wetland. This lowers the water table and dries out the wetland.
  • Salinization: Over withdrawal of groundwater has led to salinisation.

Related Initiatives

  • International Level Initiatives: Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
  • National Level Initiatives
  • National Wetland Conservation Programme
    • The National Wetlands Conservation Program
    • Wetlands Conservation and Management Rules, 2017
    • National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems (NPCA)
    • National Wetland Inventory and Assessment (NWIA)

Importance of Wetlands in India

  • Buffer Zone for Flood and Storm
  • Source of Water
  • Wetland Products
  • Water Purifier
  • Research and Education
  • Recreational Source
  • Combat Climate Change
  • Habitats of Migratory Birds
  • Biodiversity Hotspots

Wetlands of India

Also Read: Animal Husbandry

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