World Wetlands Day 2021 – What Are Wetlands, Their Significance

World Wetlands Day 2021 – What Are Wetlands, Their Significance

Wetlands are some of the world’s most fragile and sensitive ecosystems supporting unique habitats for plants and animals, and providing livelihoods to millions of people across the world. World Wetlands Day 2021 was celebrated across the globe on 2nd February 2021.

What are Wetlands

Wetlands are land areas that are saturated or flooded with water either permanently or seasonally. Inland wetlands include marshes, ponds, lakes, fens, rivers, floodplains, and swamps.

Coastal wetlands include saltwater marshes, estuaries, mangroves, lagoons and even coral reefs. Fishponds, rice paddies, and saltpans are human-made wetlands.

Protection of Wetlands

Wetlands are protected places under UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). There are over 2,400 protected wetlands across the world.

Ramsar Convention:

  • In 1962, MAR Conference called for an International Treaty for Wetlands.
  • In 1971, Ramsar Conference was held (2-3 February 1971) where 18 nations agreed to Convention on Wetlands of International importance.
  • On 8 May 1974, the Cobourg Peninsula in Australia was declared the first Ramsar site in the world.
  • On 1 December 1975, Ramsar convention came into force.
  • India signed the Ramsar Convention on 1 February 1982. Now, there are 171 contracting parties to the Ramsar Convention.

World Wetlands Day

World Wetlands Day is celebrated across the globe on 2nd February every year to to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and our planet.

This day also marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

World Wetlands Day 2021

We are facing a growing freshwater crisis that threatens people and our planet. We use more freshwater than nature can replenish, and we are destroying the ecosystem that water and all life depend on most – Wetlands.

This year’s theme shines a spotlight on wetlands as a source of freshwater and encourages actions to restore them and stop their loss. The 2021 campaign highlights the contribution of wetlands to the quantity and quality of freshwater on our planet.

The year 2021 also commemorates the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

Government of India announced the establishment of a Centre for Wetland Conservation and Management (CWCM), as a part of the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management(NCSCM), Chennai, an institution under the MOEFCC.

Why is Protecting Wetlands Necessary ?

The health of people on our planet depends on healthy wetlands. “40% of the world’s species live or breed in wetlands, yet they are disappearing three times faster than forests,” says the UN Development. 

Water and wetlands are connected in an inseparable co-existence that is vital to life, our wellbeing and the health of our planet.

Here’s why wetlands matter: 

  1. Wetlands are “nurseries of life” – 40% of animals breed in wetlands
  2. Wetlands are “kidneys of the earth” – they clean the environment of pollutants
  3. Wetlands “matter for climate change” – they store 30% of land based carbon
  4. Wetlands “minimize disaster risks” – they absorb storm surge
  5. Wetlands “provide livelihood to one billion people” – their ecosystems are worth USD 47 trillion annually

Wetlands of India

India has nearly 4.6% of its land as wetlands, covering an area of 15.26 million hectares.

The nation has 42 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites), with a surface area of 1.08 million hectares Among India States, Gujarat has the maximum area under wetlands (about 23% of India’s Wetland area).

World Wetlands Day 2021 | List of Ramsar Wetland Sites in India | Map
Source

As of December 2020, there are 42 Ramsar sites in India. These are of global significance and are included in the Ramsar list of wetlands.