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How are ‘Ramsar sites' important to conserving wetlands?

With India adding 11 more wetlands in its 75th year of independence, the total number of Ramsar sites has reached 75

By suryanshkhurana
New Update
ramsar sites important to conserve wetlands

India celebrated World Wetlands Day by adding five new Ramsar sites to its list, bringing the total to 80. Ramsar sites are internationally recognized wetlands under a convention signed in 1971.

The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change announced the new sites on January 31 in the presence of Ramsar Convention's secretary general, Musonda Mumba. These additions increase the total Ramsar site area in India to 1.33 million hectares.

World Wetlands Day, observed on February 2, marks the significance of these crucial ecosystems. The move highlights India's commitment to preserving and recognizing the importance of wetlands on a global scale.

List of newly designated Ramsar Sites

Sl. No. Name of Ramsar Site State Total area in ha
1 Ankasamudra Bird Conservation Reserve Karnataka 98.76
2 Aghanashini Estuary Karnataka 4801
3 Magadi Kere Conservation Reserve Karnataka 54.38
4 Karaivetti Bird sanctuary Tamil Nadu 453.72
5 Longwood Shola Reserve Forest Tamil Nadu 116.007

Ankasamudra Bird Conservation Reserve

Centuries ago, people created the Ankasamudra Bird Conservation Reserve, a human-made village irrigation tank spanning 98.76 hectares (244.04 acres) near Ankasamudra village.

This vital wetland is rich in biodiversity, hosting over 210 plant species, 8 mammal species, 25 reptile species, 240 bird species, 41 fish species, 3 frog species, 27 butterfly species, and 32 dragonfly species.

Images of the forested wetlands of the Longwood Shola Forest.

With more than 30,000 waterbirds using it for nesting and roosting, the reserve plays a crucial role in supporting over 1% of the biogeographic population of Painted Storks and Black-headed Ibises, making it an ecologically significant area.

Aghanashini Estuary

The Aghanashini Estuary, covering 4801 hectares, is where the Aghanashini River meets the Arabian Sea. This estuary’s brackish water offers a range of ecosystem services, such as reducing flood and erosion risks, conserving biodiversity, and supporting livelihoods.

The wetland benefits 6000-7500 families, aiding in fishing, farming, bivalve and crab collection, shrimp farming, traditional fish farming in local Gazni rice fields, shell collection, and salt production. The surrounding mangroves shield the coast from storms and cyclones.

Regularly, the estuary hosts over 43,000 individuals from more than 66 waterbird species, including over 1% of the biogeographic population of 15 waterbird species like the river tern, Asian darter, lesser black-backed gull, woolly-necked stork, and Eurasian oystercatcher.

Magadi Kere Conservation Reserve

Magadi Kere Conservation Reserve is a human-made wetland, about 50 hectares in size, created to collect rainwater for irrigation. It’s a haven for over 166 bird species, with 130 being migratory.

Panoramic view of Magadi Kere

The wetland is home to two vulnerable species - the Common Pochard and River Tern, and four near-threatened species - the Asian Darter, Black-headed Ibis, Woolly-necked Stork, and Painted Stork. During winter, nearly 8,000 birds visit the site.

Magadi Kere is also a major wintering ground for the Bar-headed Goose in Southern India. Recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA), it’s also listed as a priority conservation area in India.

Karaivetti Bird Sanctuary

The Karaivetti Bird Sanctuary, covering 453.72 hectares, is one of Tamil Nadu’s largest inland wetlands and plays a crucial role in recharging the area’s groundwater. The wetland’s water is used by locals for growing crops like paddy, sugar cane, cotton, corn, and split red gram.

The sanctuary is a major gathering spot for waterbirds in Tamil Nadu, with around 198 bird species recorded. Notable visitors include the Bar-headed Goose, Pin-tailed Duck, Garganey, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, Eurasian Wigeon, Common Teal, and Cotton Teal.

Longwood Shola Reserve Forest

The Longwood Shola Reserve Forest, which derives its name from the Tamil word “Solai” meaning ‘tropical rain forest’, lies in the highlands of Nilgiris, Anamalais, Palni hills, Kalakadu, Mundanthurai, and Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu.

Globally endangered species such as the Black-chinned Nilgiri Laughing thrush and Nilgiri Blue Robin, along with the vulnerable Nilgiri Wood-pigeon, inhabit these forested wetlands. Impressively, these wetlands host more than half of the endemic bird species of the Western Ghats.

Source: Twitter/byadavbjp

What led to the Ramsar convention?

Ramsar, a city in Iran, convened a first-of-its-kind meeting in response to rising issues of the destruction of wetlands around the globe. The destruction of wetlands impacted both humans and the biodiversity, primarily waterbirds. This convention was developed in 1960 but it took another 11 years to formalise the convention's text, which in turn was opened for signature in the town of Ramsar in 1971.

Source: Twitter/byadavbjp

The Convention is implemented through the three “pillars” of its strategic plan:

  • The wise use of all wetlands,
  • The designation and management of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar sites), and
  • International cooperation – including on shared wetlands, river basins, and populations of migratory waterbirds.  

India signed up for this convention in 1981 and registered the Chilika Lake in Odisha and the Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan as its Ramsar sites.

Between 1982-2013, a total of 26 sites were added to this list. From 2014-2022 the country has added 49 new wetlands to this list as per the data released by PIB.

For more wetlands to be listed as Ramsar sites

Recently, the news of Bengaluru which is facing the worst of its kind flood situation has been making headlines in the country. People cannot digest that an urban city like Bengaluru is facing such a tragedy. Unplanned and unsustainable urbanization leads to these consequences.

A NGO named Wetlands International South Asia (WISA) reported that in the past three decades India has lost over 30% of its Natural Wetlands. The major reasons were unsustainable urbanization, agricultural expansion, illegal construction, and pollution.

It is further estimated that almost 90 % of Chennai’s wetlands are lost, mostly because of unplanned urbanization. Vadodara lost 30.5 % of its wetlands between 2005 and 2018. Due to inadequate waste management, growing pollution, and unregulated urban growth, Hyderabad lost 55% of its wetlands. Mumbai too has lost 71% of its wetlands, while Ahmedabad has lost 57%, Bengaluru 56%, Pune 37%, and Delhi-National Capital Region 38%, leaving the cities with the challenge of dealing with water security and environmental deterioration.

Source: Twitter/byadavbjp

It is a well-known fact that roads, complexes, and any construction that takes place will significantly reduce the ground cover. The increase in the land covered by concrete and other building materials which cease the flow of rainwater into the ground and restricts it above the roads. Thereby, causing water logging on the roads or mini floods which is the case similar to that of Bangalore.

Why are Ramsar sites important?

Ramsar Sites serve as a home to various plant and animal species, as these wetlands will have an ecosystem that is highly diverse biologically. There are 100,000 different species living at these locations. Waterfowl and other migratory birds tend to migrate at these locations as these are on their migration paths, while other birds utilize these as their lay-by location.

Ramsar Sites in India are developed for cultivating rice and other foods. Moreover, these wetlands improve the natural water quality and control shoreline erosion.

Source: Twitter/narendramodi

Wetlands play a major role in protection against floods, as these sites act as a sponge by lowering the flow of water in case of rains, snow, and floodwater. Since only 3% of water is available for drinking which is mostly present in the arctic. Wetlands play a significant role to replenish the groundwater.

Full List of Ramsar sites in India

Ramsar Sites in India State – Location
Ankasamudra Bird Conservation Reserve Karnataka
Aghanashini Estuary Karnataka
Magadi Kere Conservation Reserve Karnataka
Karaivetti Bird Sanctuary Tamil Nadu
Longwood Shola Reserve Forest Tamil Nadu
Karikili Bird Sanctuary Tamil Nadu
Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest Tamil Nadu
Pichavaram Mangrove Tamil Nadu
Sakhya Sagar Madhya Pradesh
Pala Wetlands Mizoram
Khijadia Wildlife Sanctuary Gujarat
Bakhira Wildlife Sanctuary Uttar Pradesh
Haiderpur Wetland Uttar Pradesh
Sultanpur National Park Haryana
Bhindawas Wildlife Sanctuary Haryana
Thol Lake Wildlife Sanctuary Gujarat
Wadhvana Wetland Gujarat
Ashtamudi Wetland Kerala
Beas Conservation Reserve Punjab
Bhitarkanika Mangroves Odisha
Bhoj Wetlands Madhya Pradesh
Chandra Taal Himachal Pradesh
Chilika Lake Odisha
Deepor Beel Assam
East Kolkata Wetlands West Bengal
Harike Wetlands Punjab
Hokera Wetland Jammu & Kashmir
Kanjli Wetland Punjab
Keoladeo National Park Rajasthan
Keshopur-Miani Community Reserve Punjab
Kolleru lake Andhra Pradesh
Loktak lake Manipur
Nalsarovar Bird sanctuary Gujarat
Nandur Madhameshwar Maharashtra
Nangal Wildlife Sanctuary Punjab
Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary Uttar Pradesh
Parvati Agra Bird Sanctuary Uttar Pradesh
Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary Tamil Nadu
Pong Dam lake Himachal Pradesh
Renuka lake Himachal Pradesh
Ropar Wetland Punjab
Rudrasagar Lake Tripura
Saman Bird Sanctuary Uttar Pradesh
Samaspur Bird Sanctuary Uttar Pradesh
Sambhar lake  Rajasthan
Sandi Bird Sanctuary Uttar Pradesh
Sarsai Nawar Jheel Uttar Pradesh
Sasthamkotta lake Kerala
Surinsar- Mansar lakes Jammu & Kashmir
Tsomoriri Lake Ladakh
Upper Ganga river Uttar Pradesh
Vembanad Kol Wetland Kerala
Wular lake Jammu & Kashmir
Sunderban Wetland West Bengal
Asan Barrage Uttarakhand
Kanwar Lake or Kabal Taal Bihar
Lonar Lake Maharashtra
Sur Sarovar Uttar Pradesh
Tso Kar Wetland Complex Ladakh
Nanda Lake Goa
Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary Gujarat
Hokersar Wetland Jammu & Kashmir
Hygam Wetland Conservation Reserve Jammu & Kashmir
Shallbugh Wetland Conservation Reserve Jammu & Kashmir
Surinsar-Mansar Lakes Jammu & Kashmir
Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary Karnataka
Sirpur Lake Madhya Pradesh
Yashwant Sagar Madhya Pradesh
Thane Creek Maharashtra
Ansupa Lake Odisha
Hirakud Reservoir Odisha
Satkosia Gorge Odisha
Chitrangudi Bird Sanctuary Tamil Nadu
Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve Tamil Nadu
Kanjirankulam Bird Sanctuary Tamil Nadu
Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary Tamil Nadu
Pallikarnai Marsh Reserve Forest Tamil Nadu
Suchindram Theroor Wetland Complex Tamil Nadu
Udhayamarthandapuram Bird Sanctuary Tamil Nadu
Vadavur Bird Sanctuary Tamil Nadu
Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary Tamil Nadu
Vellode Bird Sanctuary Tamil Nadu
Vembannur Wetland Complex Tamil Nadu
Vellode Bird Sanctuary Tamil Nadu
Parvati Arga Bird Sanctuary Uttar Pradesh
Sundarban Wetland West Bengal


Having Ramsar sites will act as an entry barrier for any organization which intend to exploit the wetlands. In addition, Wetlands that are already declared as Ramsar sites will now see an increase in the biodiversity. The increase will be spread across the waterbirds, the fishes and other flora & fauna.

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