A flock of painted stork, whose population has increased. Photo: Special Arrangement

A flock of painted stork, whose population has increased.

A quarter century of ornithological observations of wetland birds of Kerala come with a mixed bag of joy and despair for birders.

At a time when the wetlands of the State are facing multi-pronged threats, the population of a few bird species has been found soaring whereas some others have nose-dived in the population chart. Researchers focused their attention on the data generated from the four Ramsar sites of the State – Sasthamkotta Lake, Ashtamudi Lake, Vembanad Lake and Kole Wetlands – and also the other important wetland habitats to get a bird’s eye view of the population trends of wetland avian fauna.

The brightly coloured purple swamphen is one species that have thrived amidst widespread destruction of its habitats. Its population trend analysis demonstrated that the species has increased in Kerala during the last decade.

Ornithologists arrived at the conclusion after evaluating the bird data picked up from the Asian Water bird Census (AWC) held between 1987 and 2014. The annual census, coordinated by Wetlands International, also happens to be the first country-wide citizen science activity on natural history in India. An influx of Eurasian coot, which was an added to the list of Kerala birds during the late 1980s, has been reported in the State during winter season.

The painted stork, earlier evaluated as a vagrant visitor to wetlands of Malabar and south Kerala has spread beyond the region they are generally found predicted ornithologists, after taking into account the reports of its sightings in other parts of the State.

The population of Asian Openbill, extremely rare during the 1970s, has remarkably increased since 2001, with at least four census reporting the presence of more than 3,000 birds. So is the case of Eurasian spoonbill as there have been several reports of sighting of large flocks from Kole Wetlands, Vembanad Lake and Kuttanad Wetlands. Same is the case with blackheaded Ibis.

Indian spotbilled duck, glossy ibis, oriental darter, Asian woollyneck and spotbilled pelican recorded increased presence whereas the population of the river terns and cormorants remained stable.

But the bird group of terns underwent a steady decline over the years. From the nearly 30,000-strong population in 1993-94, it had plummeted to just near 10,000 in the last decade. The loss of estuarine habitat like Purathur in Malappuram district and disturbances in other estuaries might have contributed to this decline. The decline was evident in the relatively stable sites such as Kole Wetlands, rued the ornithologists.

The population of whiskered tern, which form the major chunk of the population of the terns in the State, too has fallen significantly. Gulls too painted a gloomy picture as they were sighted in lesser number during the past few censuses. The BirdLife International has recorded that 11 water bird species of Kerala come under the IUCN Red list threatened categories with the black bellied tern being one of the ‘Endangered’ waterbird species in Kerala.

The only report of black bellied tern during AWC was from the Kole Wetlands;  great knot, a ‘vulnerable,’ trans-continental migrant, has been reported from four sites whereas the Asian woolly neck stork (another vulnerable species), has been reported from 44 wetlands across the State.

Threats identified

Demographic pressure, industrial development, pollution, urbanisation, agriculture and aquaculture and water transport have been adding pressure on the wetlands of the State.

Reclamation of wetlands and the aquatic ecosystems, which are often considered as wastelands, is spelling trouble to several taxa. The stake nets used for fishing removes a wide array of non-target organisms, which are functionally important to the aquatic environment. Destructive fishing practise are also taking a toll on the bird population, it was reported.

Unregulated fishing, reclamation of wetlands, dumping of solid waste and domestic sewage too posed threats to the wetlands of Kerala, according to ornithologists.

Ramsar Convention:-

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

The Convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. Since then, almost 90% of UN member states, from all the world’s geographic regions, have acceded to become “Contracting Parties”.

The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.

Wetlands are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems. They provide essential services and supply all our fresh water. However they continue to be degraded and converted to other uses.

The Convention uses a broad definition of wetlands. It includes all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans.

Under the “three pillars” of the Convention, the Contracting Parties commit to:

  • work towards the wise use of all their wetlands;
  • designate suitable wetlands for the list of Wetlands of International Importance (the “Ramsar List”) and ensure their effective management;
  • cooperate internationally on transboundary wetlands, shared wetland systems and shared species.
The importance of wetlands

Wetlands are vital for human survival. They are among the world’s most productive environments; cradles of biological diversity that provide the water and productivity upon which countless species of plants and animals depend for survival.

Wetlands are indispensable for the countless benefits or “ecosystem services” that they provide humanity, ranging from freshwater supply, food and building materials, and biodiversity, to flood control, groundwater recharge, and climate change mitigation.

Yet study after study demonstrates that wetland area and quality continue to decline in most regions of the world. As a result, the ecosystem services that wetlands provide to people are compromised.

Managing wetlands is a global challenge and the Convention presently counts over 160 countries as Contracting Parties, which recognize the value of having one international treaty dedicated to a single ecosystem.

The Convention uses a broad definition of wetlands. This includes all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans.

The Wise Use of wetlands

At the centre of the Ramsar philosophy is the “wise use” of wetlands. When they accede to the Convention, Contracting Parties commit to work towards the wise use of all the wetlands and water resources in their territory, through national plans, policies and legislation, management actions and public education.

The Convention defines wise use of wetlands as “the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development”. Wise use can thus be seen as the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and all the services they provide, for the benefit of people and nature.

Contracting Parties commit to work towards the wise use of all the wetlands and water resources in their territory, through national plans, policies and legislation, management actions and public education.

In 1990 the Contracting Parties adopted Guidelines for the implementation of the wise use concept. The Guidelines emphasized the importance of:

  • adopting national wetland policies, either separately or as a component of wider initiatives such as national environmental action plans;
  • developing programmes covering wetland inventory, monitoring, research, training, education and public awareness;
  • developing integrated management plans at wetland sites.
History of the Ramsar Convention

Ramsar is the oldest of the modern global intergovernmental environmental agreements. The treaty was negotiated through the 1960s by countries and non – governmental organizations concerned about the increasing loss and degradation of wetland habitat for migratory waterbirds. It was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.

MAR Conference calls for a treaty on wetlands

The MAR Conference (from MARshes, MARécages, MARismas) organized by Dr Luc Hoffmann takes place in Les Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer in the French Camargue. For the first time governments, NGOs and wetland experts call for an international treaty on wetlands and for a list of internationally important wetlands.

1963-1970: Text for a convention is negotiated

Text for a convention on wetlands is negotiated at a series of international meetings supported by the International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau (IWRB, now Wetlands International), Professor G.V.T. Matthews, and the government of the Netherlands.

Ramsar Conference

Iran’s Game and Fish Department organizes and holds a conference at the Caspian seaside resort of Ramsar, Iran where the “Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat” is agreed by representatives of 18 nations. The Treaty is signed on 3 February 1971.

First accession

Australia becomes the first State to deposit an instrument of accession to the Convention.

First Ramsar Site

Australia names the Cobourg Peninsula as the first Ramsar Site. The Cobourg Peninsula, a remote and unspoilt wilderness area on the far northern coast of Australia, is home to many threatened marine species and provides safe breeding areas to seabird colonies. It also has a fascinating Indigenous, Macassan and European history.

Heiligenhafen Conference

An International Conference on the Conservation of Wetlands and Waterfowl is held in Heiligenhafen, Germany, and adopts the first “Criteria to be used in identifying Wetlands of International Importance.”

The Convention enters into force

The Convention enters into force after UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), the Convention’s depositary, receives from Greece an instrument of accession to become the Convention’s 7th Contracting Party.

COP1, Cagliari

First meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP1) in Cagliari, Italy. The Convention has 28 member states.

COP2, Groningen

By COP2 in Groningen, Netherlands, the Convention has 35 Contracting Parties.

Paris Protocol enters into force

The Paris Protocol enters into force, after being ratified by two thirds of the Contracting Parties. The Protocol establishes a procedure for amending the Convention and adopts official versions of the treaty in Arabic, French, English, German, Russian and Spanish.

COP3, Regina

Third meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties, in Regina, Canada. 44 Parties have joined the Convention.

Ramsar Bureau established

The Ramsar Bureau is formally established as the Convention’s permanent secretariat, with Mr Dan Navid (USA) as the first Secretary General.

COP4, Montreux

56 out of 59 Contracting Parties take part in the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties, in Montreux, Switzerland.

Regina Amendments enter into force

The “Regina Amendments” to Articles 6 and 7, which clarify the role of the Conference of the Contracting Parties and the Convention’s financial regime, enter into force after being ratified by two thirds of the Contracting Parties.

 1000th Ramsar Site

Honduras designates the Sistema de Humedales de la Zona Sur de Honduras, the Convention’s 1000th Ramsar Site.

First Transboundary Ramsar Site

Hungary and Slovakia agree the collaborative management of the first Transboundary Ramsar Site, the Baradla Cave System and Domica, respectively.

10th Transboundary Ramsar Site

Gambia and Senegal agree the collaborative management of the Convention’s 10th Transboundary Ramsar Site, called “Niumi-Saloum”. It is the first transboundary Ramsar Site outside of Europe.

World Wetlands Day 2014 - February 2

World Wetlands Day on Wetlands and Agriculture is celebrated globally: 822 activities are reported, with over 100,000 participants in 77 countries!

Indian RAMSAR Sites:-

The description is given as UPSC is not only asking about location but also giving description and asking to identify.(One such example is Namdapha NP in 2015 Prelims).So it is no more enough to know where is it but also important to know the details of it.The list is taken from Wikipedia and no editorial oversight is carried out by us , hence read with due care.Every minute detail is not important though.Look out for unique or stand out characteristics of the said wetlands.

Name Location Designated Area (km2) Description
Ashtamudi Wetland

8°57′N 76°35′E

19 August 2002 614
A natural backwater in Kollam district. River Kallada and Pallichal drains into it. It forms an estuary with Sea at Neendakara which is a famous fishing harbour in Kerala. National Waterway 3 passes through it. Most tastiest backwater fish in kerala , the Karimeen of kanjiracode Kayal is from Ashtamudi Lake.
Bhitarkanika Mangroves

20°39′N 86°54′E

19 August 2002 650
In 1975, an area of 672 km2 was declared the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary. The core area of the sanctuary, with an area of 145 km2, was declared Bhitarkanika National Park in September 1998. Gahirmatha Marine Wildlife Sanctuary, which bounds the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary to the east, was created in September 1997, and encompasses Gahirmatha Beach and an adjacent portion of the Bay of Bengal. Bhitarkanika Mangroves were designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance in 2002. It is also famous for its salt water crocodiles and Olive ridley sea turtle.
Bhoj Wetland
Madhya Pradesh

23°14′N 77°20′E

19 August 2002 32
The Bhoj Wetland consists of two lakes located in the city of Bhopal, the capital of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The two lakes are the Bhojtal and the Lower Lake, which lie to the west of the city center. It is a manmade reservoir. A total of more than 20,000 birds are observed annually. Bhoj Wetland was recognized as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention of 1971 in 2002. The Upper Lake acts as the lifeline of the city supplying 40% of its potable water. White storks, black-necked storks, bar-headed geese, spoonbills, etc., that have been rare sightings in the past, have started appearing. A recent phenomenon is the gathering of 100-120 sarus cranes in the lake. The largest bird of India, the sarus crane (Grus antigone) is known for its size, majestic flight and lifetime pairing.
Chandra Taal
Himachal Pradesh

32°29′N 77°36′E

8 November 2005 .49
Chilika Lake
1 October 1981 1165
Chilka Lake (Chilika Lake) is a brackish water lagoon, spread over the Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts of Odisha state on the east coast of India, at the mouth of the Daya River, flowing into the Bay of Bengal, covering an area of over 1,100 km2. It is the largest coastal lagoon in India and the second largest lagoon in the world. The lagoon hosts over 160 species of birds in the peak migratory season. Birds from as far as the Caspian Sea, Lake Baikal, Aral Sea and other remote parts of Russia, Kirghiz steppes of Mongolia, Central and southeast Asia, Ladakh and Himalayas come here. These birds travel great distances; migratory birds probably follow much longer routes than the straight lines, possibly up to 12,000 km, to reach Chilika Lake. In 1981, Chilika Lake was designated the first Indian wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. In November 2002, the Ramsar Wetland Conservation Award was presented to the Chilika Development Authority for “outstanding achievements in the field of restoration and wise use of wetlands and effective participation of local communities in these activities. White bellied sea eagles, greylag geese, purple moorhen, jacana, flamingos, egrets, gray and purple herons, Indian roller, storks, white ibis, spoonbills, brahminy ducks, shovellers, pintails, and more. Nalbana Island is the core area of the Ramsar designated wetlands of Chilika Lake. Nalbana was notified in 1987 and declared a bird sanctuary in 1973 under the Wildlife Protection Act. The Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) is the flagship species of Chilika lake. Chilka is home to the only known population of Irrawaddy dolphins in India[32] and one of only two lagoons in the world that are home to this species.[30] It is classified as critically endangered, in five of the six other places it is known to live.
Deepor Beel
19 August 2002 40
East Calcutta Wetlands
West Bengal
19 August 2002 125
East Calcutta Wetlands. 19/08/02. West Bengal. 12,500 ha. 22°27’N 088°27’E. World-renowned as a model of a multiple use wetland, the site’s resource recovery systems, developed by local people through the ages, have saved the city of Calcutta from the costs of constructing and maintaining waste water treatment plants. The wetland forms an urban facility for treating the city’s waste water and utilizing the treated water for pisciculture and agriculture, through the recovery of nutrients in an efficient manner – the water flows through fish ponds covering about 4,000 ha, and the ponds act as solar reactors and complete most of their bio-chemical reactions with the help of solar energy. Thus the system is described as “one of the rare examples of environmental protection and development management where a complex ecological process has been adopted by the local farmers for mastering the resource recovery activities” (RIS). The wetland provides about 150 tons of fresh vegetables daily, as well as some 10,500 tons of table fish per year, the latter providing livelihoods for about 50,000 people directly and as many again indirectly. The fish ponds are mostly operated by worker cooperatives, in some cases in legal associations and in others in cooperative groups whose tenurial rights are under legal challenge. A potential threat is seen in recent unauthorized use of the waste water outfall channels by industries which add metals to the canal sludge and threaten the edible quality of the fish and vegetables. Ramsar site no. 1208. Most recent RIS information: 2002
Harike Wetland
23 March 1990 41
A shallow water reservoir with thirteen islands, at the confluence of two rivers. Dense floating vegetation covers 70% of the lake. An important site for breeding, wintering and staging birds, supporting over 200,000 Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans, etc.) during migration. The entire lake is leased on an annual basis to commercial fishery organizations.
Hokera Wetland
Jammu and Kashmir
8 November 2005 13.75
Located in the northwest Himalayan biogeographic province of Kashmir, back of the snow-draped Pir Panchal (1,584m asl.), Hokera wetland is only 10 km from scenic paradise of Srinagar. A natural perennial wetland contiguous to the Jhelum basin, it is the only site with remaining reedbeds of Kashmir and pathway of 68 waterfowl species like Large Egret, Great Crested Grebe, Little Cormorant, Common Shelduck, Tufted Duck and endangered White-eyed Pochard, coming from Siberia, China, Central Asia, and Northern Europe. It is an important source of food, spawning ground and nursery for fishes, besides offering feeding and breeding ground to a variety of water birds. Typical marshy vegetation complexes inhabit like Typha, Phragmites, Eleocharis, Trapa, and Nymphoides species ranging from shallow water to open water aquatic flora. Sustainable exploitation of fish, fodder and fuel is significant, despite water withdrawals since 1999. Potential threats include recent housing facilities, littered garbage, and demand for increasing tourist facilities.
Kanjli Wetland
22 January 2002 1.83
A permanent stream, the Kali Bein, converted by construction of a small barrage in 1870 into a water storage area for irrigation purposes. The site fulfils Criteria 3 because of its importance in supporting a considerable diversity of aquatic, mesophytic, and terrestrial flora and fauna in the biogeographical region, and acts also as a key regulator of groundwater discharge and recharge with the seasons. By this means and by direct abstraction of water for irrigation by the local population, the site plays a crucial role in the agriculture which predominates on the surrounding fertile plain, with fewer pressures upon water supplies than elsewhere in the Punjab. The invasive water hyacinth is present and must be removed from time to time; increasing pollution levels, deforestation in the catchment area, and excessive grazing are seen as potential threats. The stream is considered to be the most significant in the state from the religious point of view, as it is associated with the first guru of the Sikhs, Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The stream itself and surrounding marsh is under provincial ownership and surrounding areas privately owned. The site is a center for environmental tourism and picnicking.
Keoladeo National Park
1 October 1981 28.73
A complex of ten artificial, seasonal lagoons, varying in size, situated in a densely populated region. Vegetation is a mosaic of scrub and open grassland that provides habitat for breeding, wintering and staging migratory birds. Also supported are five species of ungulates, four species of cats, and two species of primates, as well as diverse plants, fish and reptiles. The canal provides water for agriculture and domestic consumption. Cattle and water buffalo graze on the site. A field research station exists. Placed on the Montreux Record in 1990 due to “water shortage and an unbalanced grazing regime”. Additionally, the invasive growth of the grass Paspalum distichum has changed the ecological character of large areas of the site, reducing its suitability for certain waterbird species, notably the Siberian crane.
Kolleru Lake
Andhra Pradesh
19 August 2002 901 bird sanctury
Loktak Lake
23 March 1990 266
Loktak Lake is the largest freshwater lake in the north-eastern region of the country, which is famous for the phumdis (heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil, and organic matters at various stages of decomposition) floating over it. Keibul Lamjao the only floating national park in the world floats over it. It is located near Moirang, Bishnupur district in Manipur state, India.[1] The etymology of Loktak is Lok = “stream” and tak = “the end”.[2] The Keibul Lamjao National Park, which is the last natural refuge of the endangered “Sangai” or Manipur brow-antlered deer (‘Cervus eldi eldi’), one of three subspecies of Eld’s deer, covering an area of 40 km2 (15 sq mi), is situated in the southeastern shores of this lake and is the largest of all the phumdis in the lake.[3][4]This place is a global tourist destination. ‘Sendra tourist hub’ (a small hillock) is located at moirang ~58 km from the heart of the city.
Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary
24 September 2012 123
A natural freshwater lake (a relict sea) that is the largest natural wetland in the Thar Desert Biogeographic Province and represents a dynamic environment with salinity and depth varying depending on rainfall. The area is home to 210 species of birds, with an average 174,128 individuals recorded there during the winter and 50,000 in the summer. It is an important stopover site within the Central Asia Flyway, with globally threatened species such as the critically endangered Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarius) and the vulnerable Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris) stopping over at the site during migration, while the vulnerable Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) takes refuge there during summer when other water bodies are dry. The wetland is also a lifeline for a satellite population of the endangered Indian Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur) which uses this area in the dry season. Local communities heavily rely on the lake as it provides them with a source of drinking water and water for irrigiation, as well as an important source of income from fishing for Catla fish (Catla Catla) and Rohu (Labeo rohita). An average of 75,000 tourists visit the wetland annually.
Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary
Tamil Nadu
19 August 2002 385
One of the last remnants of Dry Evergreen Forests.
Habitat:Dry Evergreen Forests, Mangrove & Wetlands.
Winter Migrants : Spoon Billed Sandpiper, Greater Flamingos.

Threats: Agricultural & Shrimp farm runoff =>High concentration of DDT & HCH in their tissue||

Pong Dam Lake
Himachal Pradesh
19 August 2002 156.62
A water storage reservoir created in 1975 on the Beas River in the low foothills of the Himalaya on the northern edge of the Indo-Gangetic plain. The RIS notes that “at a time when wetlands in northern India are getting reduced due to extensive drainage and reclamation, the avian habitats formed by the creation of the Pong Dam assume a great significance” – given the site’s location on the trans-Himalayan flyway, more than 220 bird species have been identified, with 54 species of waterfowl. Hydrological values include monsoon-season flood prevention, both in the surroundings and downstream due to water regulation, groundwater recharge, silt trapping and prevention of soil erosion; electricity is generated for this and neighboring states, and irrigation water is being channeled to fertile areas of the Punjab and Rajasthan deserts. Low-yield subsistence fishing existed prior to impoundment, but since, a lucrative fishery has grown up, with 27 fish species and a yield increasing markedly each year – some 1800 fishermen now have direct employment and 1000 families benefit indirectly. A nature conservation education centre is found on the island of Ransar or Ramsar (sic). Recent management strategies have shifted away from law enforcement and use restrictions towards more participatory approaches and community awareness, and the site is well suited to “community-based ecotourism”.
Renuka Lake
Himachal Pradesh
8 November 2005 .2
A natural wetland with freshwater springs and inland subterranean karst formations, fed by a small stream flowing from the lower Himalayan out to the Giri river. The lake is home to at least 443 species of fauna and 19 species of ichthyofauna representative of lacustrine ecosystems like Puntius, Labeo, Rasbora, Channa. Prominent vegetation ranges from dry deciduous like Shorea Robusta, Terminalia tomentosa, Dalbergia sissoo to hydrophytes. There are 103 species of birds of which 66 are residents, e.g. Crimson-breasted barbet, Mayna, Bulbul, Pheasants, Egrets, Herons, Mallards and Lapwing. Among ungulates Sambhar, Barking deer and Ghorals are also abundant in the area. The lake has high religious significance and is named after the mother of Hindu sage Parshuram, and is thus visited by thousands of pilgrims and tourists. Conservation measures so far include community awareness, and prevention of silt influx from eroded slopes and 50 ha. of massive plantation in the catchment. The site is managed by the Shimla Forest Department, Himachal Pradesh
22 January 2002 13.65
A humanmade wetland of lake and river formed by the 1952 construction of a barrage for diversion of water from the Sutlej River for drinking and irrigation supplies. The site is an important breeding place for the nationally protected Smooth Indian Otter, Hog Deer, Sambar, and several reptiles, and the endangered Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) is thought to be present. Some 35 species of fish play an important role in the food chain, and about 150 species of local and migratory birds are supported. Local fisheries are economically significant, and wheat, rice, sugar cane, and sorghum are cultivated in the surrounding area. Deforested local hills leading to siltation, and increasing industrialization causing an inflow of pollutants, are potential threats, and invasive weeds are a further cause for concern. Nature lovers, birdwatchers, swimmers and boaters visit the site in considerable numbers.
Rudrasagar Lake
8 November 2005 2.4
Sambhar Lake
23 March 1990 240
The Sambhar Salt Lake, India’s largest inland salt lake. Sambhar has been designated as a Ramsar site (recognized wetland of international importance) because the wetland is a key wintering area for tens of thousands of flamingos and other birds that migrate from northern Asia. The specialized algae and bacteria growing in the lake provide striking water colours and support the lake ecology that, in turn, sustains the migrating waterfowl. There is other wildlife in the nearby forests, where Nilgai move freely along with deer and foxes.
Sasthamkotta Lake
19 August 2002 3.73
It is the largest freshwater lake in Kerala, situated in Kollam district. River Kallada had a unique replenishing system through a bar of paddy field which has now disappeared due to indiscriminate sand and clay mining. The lake is now depleting due to destruction of replenishing mechanism.
Surinsar-Mansar Lakes
Jammu and Kashmir
8 November 2005 3.5
Jammu and Kashmir
19 August 2002 120
A freshwater to brackish lake lying at 4,595m above sea level, with wet meadows and borax-laden wetlands along the shores. The site is said to represent the only breeding ground outside of China for one of the most endangered cranes, the Black-necked crane (Grus nigricollis), and the only breeding ground for Bar-headed geese in India. The Great Tibetan Sheep or Argali (Ovis ammon hodgsoni) and Tibetan Wild Ass (Equus kiang) are endemic to the Tibetan plateau, of which the Changthang is the westernmost part. The barley fields at Korzok have been described as the highest cultivated land in the world. With no outflow, evaporation in the arid steppe conditions causes varying levels of salinity. Ancient trade routes and now major trekking routes pass the site. The 400-year-old Korzok monastery attracts many tourists, and the wetland is considered sacred by local Buddhist communities and the water is not used by them. The local community dedicated Tsomoriri as a WWF Sacred Gift for the Living Planet in recognition of WWF-India’s project work there. The rapidly growing attraction of the recently opened area to western tourists (currently 2500 per summer) as an “unspoilt destination” with pristine high desert landscapes and lively cultural traditions brings great promise but also potential threats to the ecosystem.
Upper Ganga River (Brijghat to Narora Stretch)
Uttar Pradesh
8 November 2005 265.9
A shallow river stretch of the great Ganges with intermittent small stretches of deep-water pools and reservoirs upstream from barrages. The river provides habitat for IUCN Red listed Ganges River Dolphin, Gharial, Crocodile, 6 species of turtles, otters, 82 species of fish and more than hundred species of birds. Major plant species, some of which have high medicinal values, include Dalbergia sissoo, Saraca indica, Eucalyptus globulus, Ficus bengalensis, Dendrocalamus strictus, Tectona grandis, Azadirachta indica and aquatic Eichhorina. This river stretch has high Hindu religious importance for thousands of pilgrims and is used for cremation and holy baths for spiritual purification. Major threats are sewage discharge, agricultural runoff, and intensive fishing. Conservation activities carried out are plantation to prevent bank erosion, training on organic farming, and lobbying to ban commercial fishing.
Vembanad-Kol Wetland
19 August 2002 1512.5
Largest lake of Kerala, spanning across Alappuzha , Kottayam , and Ernakulam districts. Famous tourist locations like Alappuzha and Kumarakom, known for house boats falls here. River mouths of Pamba-Achenkovil rivers in Vembanad forms one of the unique wetland topography of Kerala, the Kuttanad. It is below sea level and is famous for exotic fish varieties and Paddy fields that are below sea level.
Wular Lake
Jammu and Kashmir
23 March 1990 189
The largest freshwater lake in India with extensive marshes of emergent and floating vegetation, particularly water chestnut, that provide an important source of revenue for the State Government and fodder for domestic livestock. The lake supports an important fishing industry and is a valuable source of water for irrigation and domestic use. The area is important for wintering, staging and breeding birds. Human activities include rice cultivation and tree farming.

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