Wetlands of India - A Dying Natural Heritage
February 2 is World Wetland Day and India is home to a large number of wetlands which are our natural heritage and form part of the biodiversity of the country. Along with tropical forests and coral reefs, wetlands are an important ecological feature which makes a country rich - both in terms of life (biodiversity) and culture ( communities and activities). This year’s Wetland Day theme is Wetland and Water which highlights the importance of wetlands as a water source.
‘Without Wetlands There Is No Water’ - wetlands are our crucial source of water which is even more crucial today as our cities run out of water. Surveys and research studies showed that India has lost one third of its Wetlands in the last 40 years especially in cities and towns making them epicentres for water crisis. Mumbai alone lost 71% of its wetlands in 44 years.
Wetlands are tracts of isolated water bodies created by years of water storage and accumulation in the area. These large tracts of saturated freshwater lands are of national and global importance - both culturally and biogeographically. Wetlands protect us from floods, water crisis, diseases and many more things making it a vital part of life but in recent years wetlands are vanishing due to human interference and hence a wetland conservation effort started in 1971 in Ramsar, Iran. From that day onwards, all over the world Feb 2 is celebrated as World Wetland Day when wetlands are demarcated as Ramsar sites.
India has 41 such Ramsar sites which includes high altitude lakes like Tso Moriri in Ladakh, geographical impact crater lakes like Lonar Lake of Maharashtra, wetlands in cities like the East Calcutta Wetlands in Calcutta, a large freshwater lake, Loktak lake in Manipur etc. Today, we are highlighting some of these which show the cultural diversity of wetlands.
Loktak is crucial as it’s the only floating national park in the world which supports a dynamic range of livelihoods including pisciculture and other activities. This 111 square miles large lake is studded with floating phumdis cultivated by the villagers of manipur. This is UNESCO heritage site for its unique phumdis cultivation and fishing activities and lifestyle by the lake. Also a range of rare animals like the sangai deer are found in the area. Lakes like these hotspots for unique biodiversity, especially flowers, insects and birds.