Amrit Dharohar scheme, and the state of Indian wetlands

Amrit Dharohar Scheme: The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) defines wetlands as,

“submerged or water saturated lands, both natural and man-made, 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 6m. “

Wetlands are often described as eco tones-transitional habitats situated between dry land and a water body. 

Whether they were permanent rivers or enormous bodies of water, wetlands have always been locations for water sources. Then, they led to the growth of civilization. Wetlands are also among the world’s most productive ecosystems.

Disappearing wetlands

Keoladeo wetland, Bharatpur, Rajasthan
Keoladeo wetland, Bharatpur, Rajasthan | Courtesy: Flickr

Wetlands are disappearing and degrading globally as a result of the fast economic and demographic increase. And, this has caused worry on a global scale.

Read more: Restoring urban wetlands for a brighter future

A study titled ‘Space-based observation of India Wetlands’ published by the Indian Space Research Organisation revealed that in the years 2017 and 2018, 1,342 wetlands with a combined area of 0.025 million hectares (Mha) disappeared. Over the course of a decade, natural coastal wetlands lost about 73,961 ha, out of this 116,897 ha are intertidal mudflats and 5647 ha are salt marshes. Additionally, 6,557 ha of natural inland waterlogged areas were lost. Intertidal mudflats lost 4.8% of their area, salt marshes 3.7%, and waterlogged areas 2.4%. 

Women fishing in Tinsukia District, Assam, India. Wetlands support the livelihoods of many rural households in the Hindu Kush Himalayas | Courtesy: Flickr
Women fishing in Tinsukia District, Assam, India. Wetlands support the livelihoods of many rural households in the Hindu Kush Himalayas | Courtesy: Flickr


Chennai suffered from challenges with water security and a damaged environment as a result of the uncontrolled development that eliminated 90% of the city’s wetlands. Wetlands in Mumbai were lost by 71%, Ahmedabad by 57%, and Delhi by 38%. This happened primarily due to development and eutrophication from pollution. The government often focuses on the preservation and maintenance of the Ramsar site while disregarding lesser wetlands, which is the major reason for this.

Read more: India lost one-third of its natural wetlands in four decades, reveals study | Mumbai news – Hindustan Times

According to Wetlands International South Asia, in the past three decades, over 30% of India’s natural wetlands have disappeared. Primarily as a result of illegal building, unsustainable urbanization, agricultural development, and pollution. Additionally, according to experts, uncontrolled garbage dumping and persistent disdain for natural recharge systems like ponds, marshes, and tanks are to be blamed for floods in metropolitan areas.

Conservation measures in budget 2023 | Courtesy: Twitter/byadavbjp

Recent steps by the government

In August 2022 India added 11 more wetlands to the list of Ramsar sites to make a total of 75 Ramsar sites covering an area of 13,26,677 ha in the country.

Read more: India adds 11 more wetlands to the list of Ramsar Sites

The 11 new sites include Four (4) sites in Tamil Nadu, Three (3) in Odisha, Two (2) in Jammu & Kashmir, and One (1) each in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Designation of these sites would help in the conservation and management of wetlands and the wise use of their resources. 

Recently on 1st February 2023, the Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs in her Union Budget 2023-24 speech highlighted the importance of local communities in conserving the wetlands ecosystems. Then, they announced the Amrit Dharohar scheme which will promote their unique conservation values. This scheme will be implemented over the next three years to encourage the optimal use of wetlands. Furthermore, enhance biodiversity, carbon stock, eco-tourism opportunities, and income generation for local communities.

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