The state of Uttarakhand has got its first Ramsar Site—a wetland of international importance. The Asan Conservation Reserve, located on the banks of River Yamuna in Garhwal region in Dehradun district, was designated as the Ramsar Site. The nearest town or population centre of this Conservation Reserve about 8 kms away, at Herbertpur. It falls under the Indo-Gangetic monsoon forest wetlands category, based on the categorisation by Hussain and Dey Roy (ZSI 2003).Asan Conservation Reserve—a human-made wetland cleared five out of the nine criteria needed to be declared a Ramsar Site and get identified as a Wetland of International Importance. The criteria cleared are rare species and threatened ecological communities, biological diversity, support during critical life cycle stage or in adverse conditions, more than one per cent waterbird population and fish spawning grounds. This wetland, primarily a freshwater system, has been created by the Asan reservoir. It is a perennial habitat and is fed by the river Asan and smaller discharge channels of river Yamuna.

A notified Conservation Reserve

Asan wetland is a 444 ha portion running along the Asan River, stretching to the confluence with the Yamuna River. It is also a conservation reserve, a protected area that typically acts as a buffer or a connector. Asan, therefore, serves as a migration corridor between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserved and protected forests in the region. The Uttarakhand Government had notified Asan as a conservation reserve under Section 36A of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. The Asan River, originating at Chandrabani in the foothills of the Shivalik hills, flows for about 40 kms before merging with the Yamuna at Dhalipur. The unique feature of this river is that unlike other rivers which flow north to south, it flows in a west to east direction. The reservoir remains filled throughout the year, fed by the Asan river and several other minor channels in a perennial manner.

Fauna Diversity

The damming of the river and consequent siltation above the dam wall has created favourable habitat for avian species. It supports 330 species of birds that include even endangered vulture species such as red-headed vulture and white-rumped vulture. Some of the other bird species that can be sited in this wetlands are Ruddy shelduck, Indian Spot-billed Duck, Painted Stork and Bar-headed Goose. The ecosystem, which includes grasses and trees, supports many wintering birds, particularly waterbirds. It is therefore aptly described as the ‘paradise of wintering birds.’

Besides birds, the Asan reserve also supports 49 fish species, which includes the endangered Putitor mahseer.

What are Ramsar Sites?

Ramsar Sites are a list of wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands adopted on February 2, 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar. The Convention on Wetlands came into force for India on February 1, 1982. There are over 2,000 “Ramsar Sites” on the territories of over 160 Contracting Parties across the world. As of October 2020, India has 39 Ramsar sites—third highest in Asia and the highest in South Asia.

In general, wetlands provide many ecological services, including clean water, flood abatement, wildlife habitat, recreation, tourism, fishing and groundwater recharge. Countries where wetlands are designated as the Ramsar Sites, agree to establish and oversee a management framework aimed at conserving the wetland and ensuring its wise use. Ramsar Convention defines the ‘wise use’ of wetlands as ‘the maintenance of their ecological character, achieved through the implementation of ecosystem approaches, within the context of sustainable development’. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has also notified the new Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017. This is also known as the Wetlands rules in which ‘wise use’ has been appropriately defined. The Rule has outlined permitted and not-permitted activities in the notified wetlands, including the Ramsar Sites. Wise use allows local people to practise sustainable agriculture, fishing, forestry and tourism using the available renewable resources. In a nutshell, wise use emphasises the sustainable management of these ecosystems by humans which is compatible with conservation. Besides, the Ramsar tag gives international importance to a wetland, which increases its publicity and brings prestige and prominence. In this way, it encourages sustainable tourism and uplifts the life of the local community.


Ramsar Sites in India

Ramsar sites are wetlands considered to be of international importance. The Ramsar convention, an international body, forms the basis for identification of such wetlands. The international treaty came into effect in 1971 after identifying the first such wetland at the Ramsar city of Iran. The Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands.

ramsar sites in india
Ramsar Sites in India
  1. Wular Lake, Jammu& Kashmir
    Freshwater Lake
    18,900 ha
    Largest freshwater lake of river Jhelum Basin. Provides flood protection to Kashmir Valley.

  2. Hokera, Jammu&Kashmir
    Freshwater marsh
    1,375 haHaven for water birds

  3. Surisnsar-Mansar Lakes, Jammu & Kashmir
    Freshwater lake
    350 ha
    Wildlife sanctuary and a sacred site supporting several species of high conservation value

  4. Tsomoriri, Jammu & Kashmir
    Freshwater-saline lake
    12,000 ha
    Breeding ground for endangered black-necked crane (Grus nigricollis) and bar-headed geese (Anser indicus)

  5. Chandertal, Himachal Pradesh
    Freshwater lake
    49 ha
    Natural habitat to rare flora and fauna species of alphine region

  6. Pong Dam lake, Himachal Pradesh
    15,662 ha
    The Maharana Pratap Sagar created by Pong Dam supports highly diverse waterbird habitats

  7. Kanjili, Punjab
    Impounded stream
    183 ha
    Storage area for irrigation.

  8. Harike Lake, Punjab
    4,100 ha
    It is the main source of water for Indira Gandhi that irrigates Rajasthan.

  9. Ropar, Punjab
    Freshwater lake
    1,365 ha
    Important bird watching and boating site.

  10. Renuka, Himachal Pradesh
    Freshwater Lake
    20 ha
    A natural wetland with freshwater springs

  11. Sambhar Lake
    Saline lake
    24,000 ha
    Second largest breeding ground for flamingos in India

  12. Keoladeo National Park (KNP), Rajasthan
    Freshwater swamps
    2,873 ha
    Known as the Bharatpur bird sanctuary, also a world heritage site.

  13. Upper Ganga River (Brijghat to Narora Stretch)
    River stretch
    26,590 ha
    Ganga river dolphin, crocodile and otters are some of the mammalian species found here.

  14. Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary, Gujarat
    Freshwater lake
    4,100 ha
    Largest wetland bird sanctuary in Gujarat with around 250 species of water birds

  15. Bhoj Wetland, Madhya Pradesh
    3,201 ha
    Main source of water for Bhopal City

Ramsar Sites in India

16. Deepor Beel, Assam
Freshwater lake
4,000 ha
Supports high concentration of migratory waterbird

17. Loktak Lake, Manipur
Freshwater marsh
26,600 ha
The only known natural habitat for Manipur brow-antlered deer

18. Rudrasagar lake, Tripura
Freshwater lake
240 ha
Ideal habitat for riverine fish species

19. East Kolkata Wetlands, West Bengal
Sewage fed fish ponds
12,500 ha
These wetlands treat the city’s sewage and provides for fish and vegetables

20. Bhitarkanika Mangroves, Odisha
Mangrove swamps
65,000 ha
Home to endangered salt water crocodiles and Gahirmatha beach is the largest known Olive Ridley sea turtle nestling in the world.

21. Chilika, Odisha
1,16,500 ha
One of the only two lagoons with population of Irrawaddy dolphins. Its rich fishery resources sustains 0.2 million fishers

.Ramsar Sites in India

22. Kolleru Lake, Andhra Pradesh
Freshwarer lake
90,100 ha
Acts as a flood balancing reservoir and was once known for its spot-billed pelicans sighting.

23. Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu
Coastal swamps and salt pans
38,500 ha
Supports high diversity of water bird

24. Vembanad-Kol, Kerala
Floodplain estuary complex
1,51,250 ha
Known for backwater tourism and rich source of live and sub-fossil clam deposits.

25. Ashtamudi, Kerala
61,400 ha
A palm shaped estuary with eight branches, gateway to the backwaters of Kerala.

26. Sashthamkotta Lake, Kerala
Freshwater lake
373 ha
Source of drinking water for half a million people in Kollam City and its suburbs.

  1. Sundarban Wetland, West Bengal 

The largest mangrove forest in the world that encompasses hundreds of islands and a maze of rivers, rivulets and creeks

423,000 ha

Constitutes over 60 per cent of India’s total mangrove forest area and includes 90 per cent of the Indian mangrove species.

  1. Nandur Madhameshwar, Maharashtra

Lakes, marshes and riparian forest

1437 ha

Formed by shallow backwaters of Nandur Madhmeshwar dam and is also a bird sanctuary.

  1. Keshopur-Miani Community Reserve, Punjab

A mosaic of natural marshes, aquaculture ponds and agricultural wetlands

343.9 ha

A community-managed wetland, which provides food for people and supports local biodiversity.

  1. Samaspur Bird Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh

Perennial lowland marsh

799 ha

Six connected lakes are heavily dependent on monsoon rains and harbours threatened bird species.

  1. Parvati Agra Bird Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh

A permanent freshwater environment consisting of two oxbow lakes

722 ha

Roosting and breeding sites with over 100,000 birds and a refuge for some of India’s threatened vulture species.

  1. Sarsai Nawar Jheel, Uttar Pradesh

A permanent marsh

161 ha

An example of co-habitation of humans and wildlife and sustaining the vulnerable Sarus crane.

  1. Nangal Wildlife Sanctuary, Punjab

A human-made reservoir

116 ha

Supports abundant flora and fauna including Indian pangolin, Egyptian vulture and the leopard.

  1. Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh

A shallow marshland

225 ha

Known as a haven for birds, with 25,000 waterbirds regularly recorded.

  1. Sandi Bird Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh

A freshwater marsh

308.5 ha

A typical Indo-Gangetic plains wetlands and a habitat for waterfowl with over 40,000 individuals counted in 2018.

  1. Beas Conservation Reserve, Punjab

A stretch of the Beas River

6428.9 ha

Dotted with islands, sand bars and braided channels creating a complex environment supporting substantial biodiversity and hosts the only known population in India of the endangered Indus river dolphin.

  1. Saman Bird Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh

A seasonal oxbow lake on the Ganges floodplain

526.3 ha

A wintering site for many migrants including the greylag goose.

  1. Asan Conservation Reserve, Uttarakhand

A stretch of the Asan River running down to its confluence with the Yamuna River

444.4 ha

Supports 330 species of birds including red-headed vulture, white-rumped vulture and Baer’s pochard

  1. Kabartal Wetland, Bihar

Also known as Kanwar Jheel located in the Indo-Gangetic plains

2,620 ha

An important stopover along the Central Asian Flyway.


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