Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season. Wetlands can both be natural or man-made. Lakes, marshes, swamps, ponds, farm ponds, sacred groves, salt pans, irrigated fields, sewage farms, canals and reservoirs are all different types of wetlands.
Wetlands are never as far from us as they seem. When you get up in the morning to no water in your taps to when your city streets get submerged in water during the rains – everything, in one way or the other, either partially or completely, is dependent on the condition of your city’s wetlands.
When you care about wetlands, you not only secure an important natural resource but your own future and health. Learn more about the various services that wetlands provide us here.
Over 2 Billion people worldwide depend on groundwater for various needs. This means that whether you’re a city resident, farmer, corporate employee or anyone else – ground water for you is an indispensable resource.
And since groundwater is recharged mainly through wetlands; their disappearance in your city or immediate surroundings leads to depleting water levels that will affect you and your family. In other words, both the quantity and the quality of the groundwater that you use, more often than not, depend on the health of the wetlands in your city.
In many cities and villages, wetlands are the direct source of water supply.
All of us drink water, that’s for certain. Bathing, mopping, flushing are some of the many ways in which we directly consume water. This accounts for our direct water footprint.
However, a lot of water also goes into making the clothes that we wear, the food that we eat and in almost every other product that we consume. All of this water combined together accounts for an individual’s water footprint.
For instance, when you drink one litre of bottled water, you actually consume 17 litres of water in total – this accounts for the water that you’ve bought, the water used in the entire bottling process, in the transportation to your store and in all the other logistics that it involves!
“Water footprint can be measured for a single process, such as growing rice, for a product, such as a pair of jeans, for the fuel we put in our car, or for an entire multi-national company. The water footprint can also tell us how much water is being consumed by a particular country – or globally – in a specific river basin or from an aquifer.”
Your water footprint is simply the impact your water consumption has on the planet! Calculate your water footprint now to see how your choices are impacting the planet!
-Use of wetlands as dumps for solid and liquid waste.
-Degradation of catchment areas, areas near wetlands from which rain water can flow into the wetland.
-Pollution from industrial and agricultural discharge
-Land being taken over for development
-Excessive diversion of water for agriculture
-Increase in population
Overconsumption of groundwater – the most common source of water for billions around the world – is one of the leading causes wetlands are endangered today. However, not just overuse of groundwater but our large direct and indirect water footprints lead to exploitation of most of our water sources and wetlands. When we draw out water at a rate higher than it can be naturally replenished, we overburden all our water sources including wetlands!
Running taps, overflowing water tanks, leaking pipelines -- are only few of the most common ways through which we waste millions of litres of water every day.
There are a number of other ways in which we consume much more than our fair share of this precious resource. The choices we make as consumers add up to our water footprint, making us responsible, in one way or the other, for the state of our water bodies.
Yes, certainly! If your wetlands stay healthy, so do you!
As sources of clean water, wetlands are important both for day to day functions and for maintaining basic levels of hygiene. Their water is used in a number of agricultural activities and therefore has direct links with our food! When wetlands are polluted, so is our water and food supply – which may lead to a number of health conditions such as diarrhea, dysentery, skin ailments, even cancer.
Wetlands are also important for preventing natural disasters. As sinks for rain water, they not only store excess water but prevent it from flooding land areas – thus, simultaneously acting as barriers against droughts and as natural flood defenses.
The aesthetic, spiritual and cultural value of wetlands also plays a major role in keeping us happy. Loss of aesthetically and spiritually appealing places can lead to depression and, as researchers believe, can even have a correlation with suicidal tendencies. A more direct link between loss of wetlands and suicide reveals itself in cases of farmer suicides in regions affected by droughts.
Did you know?
-WHO estimates that, in India, about 38 million people are affected by waterborne diseases each year, of which over 75 percent are children!
-In India alone, waterborne diseases cost the economy 73 million working days per year.
-‘Solastalgia’ is a term specifically used to describe the grief caused by loss of places.
In a healthy wetland, the ecosystem is so structured that even though mosquitoes may breed in it, their numbers are kept in control by their natural predators. Polluted wetlands, on the other hand, can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. It is therefore all the more important to keep our wetlands healthy.
Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention.
The Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. Wetlands that make it to the Ramsar list are selected on “account of their international significance in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology or hydrology.” The convention seeks to conserve wetlands through ‘far sighted national policies with co-ordinated international action’ .
Of the hundreds of wetlands in India, only 26 wetlands have been designated as Ramsar Sites.
Click here to see a map of all Ramsar sites in India!
Find a list of wetlands of national importance here.
Find out about volunteering opportunities near you here.
If you have identified a wetland near you, it’s now time to look for signs!
If the wetland is thriving with life, blue water, birds and other life forms around it - it’s a healthy wetland! But foul smells, black or green water, and absence/lack of biodiversity around the wetland are indicators of trouble!
A wetland in good condition, however, can still need your support. You can ensure that it remains in its pristine condition by creating awareness about it. Send us pictures of a healthy wetland near you and we will put it up on our social media to help people appreciate wetlands more! You can also work towards ensuring that it remains in its present condition by constantly keeping yourself updated.
If a wetland near you is threatened, there are a number of things you can do to help save it.
- Volunteer: organise cleanliness drives and awareness activities around the wetland. Learn more about volunteering opportunities with WWF-India here.
- Write to local authorities: Inform concerned authorities about the status of an endangered wetland.
You can also ask people around you to speak up – the more voices raised, the higher the chances for your wetland!
- Spread Awareness: Spread word about the condition of dying wetlands through articles, pictures or films! Send them to us – and we will share them on our social media to take your message to hundreds of people.
In India, wetlands are administered and regulated under the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 (Rules). These rules were issued by the Central Government in exercise of powers conferred upon it by the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
The basic scheme of the protection given to wetlands flows from the Wetland Rules in three steps. These steps can be understood in the form of the questions below.
• What are wetlands under the law? The definition of a wetland.
• When are wetlands protected and what does it mean to be a protected wetland in the eyes of the law?
• How do the Wetland Rules seek to protect wetlands?
A wetland is defined under Rule 2(g) of the Wetland Rules. The rules provide a fairly wide definition to the term wetland; the definition includes both natural and manmade wetlands, both saltwater and freshwater. However, what is important to note is that not all wetlands are protected under the scheme of the Rules. Some wetlands are given the status of ‘Protected wetlands’ while the rest are not.
This distinction makes the second question mentioned above necessary. A wetland is a protected wetland if it falls within any of the categories listed in Rule 3 of the Wetland Rules. Being a protected wetland grants the area with a certain degree of protection under the Rules, barring certain activities from being carried out in the area, and requiring express permission from the Central Government for certain others. But first it is necessary to separate protected wetland from the rest. Under the Rules, the following wetlands are granted protection .
1. Wetlands that have been classified as Ramsar Wetlands
2. Wetlands in ecologically sensitive and important areas
3. Wetlands that lie in, or are themselves. UNESCO World Heritage Sites
4. High altitude wetlands, having a size greater than 5 hectares
5. Low altitude wetlands
6. Others as may be identified and notified by the Central Government