Wetlands – Ramsar Wetland Sites (Iran, 1971)


Wetlands are the areas where Water covers the soil and treasured and nurtured for their beauty significantly in terms of Ecology, Botany, Zoology, Limnology or Hydrology.

The text of the Convention on Wetlands (Article 2.2) Ramsar (Iran, 1971) states that:

“Wetlands should be selected for the List on account of their international significance in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology or hydrology” and indicates that “in the first instance, wetlands of international importance to waterfowl at any season should be included”.

Water is the primary factor, the land is covered by water and can control the environment associated with plant and animal life OR They occur where the water table is at or near the surface of the land.

The Ramsar Convention has 6 International Organization Partners:

  1. Birdlife International
  2. Nature (IUCN)
  3. International Union for Conservation of
  4. International Water Management Institute
  5. Wetlands International
  6. World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
  7. Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)

Types of Wetlands

There are two types of wetlands:-


Wetland Classification

Wetlands classified into Inland and Coastal Wetlands:-


Functions of Wetlands

Functions of wetlands are as follows:

  • Habitat to aquatic flora and fauna, as well as numerous species of birds, including migratory species.
  • Filtration of sediments and nutrients from surface water
  • Nutrients recycling
  • Water purification
  • Floods mitigation
  • Maintenance of stream-flow
  • Ground-water recharging
  • Provide drinking water, fish, fodder, fuel, etc
  • Control rate of runoff in urban areas
  • Buffer shorelines against erosion
  • Comprise an important resource for sustainable tourism, recreation and cultural heritage
  • Stabilization of local climate
  • Supporting specific diversity
  • Source of livelihood to local people
  • Genetic reservoir for various species of plants (especially rice)

 Values of Wetland / Economic Benefits

Values of wetlands vary with the diversity of sectors as they said to be economical benefits too-

  • Fisheries (over two-thirds of the world’s fish harvest is linked to the health of coastal and inland wetland areas)
  • Transport
  • Water supply (quantity and quality)
  • Wildlife resources
  • Recreation
  • Tourism opportunities
  • Agriculture, through the maintenance of water tables
  • Timber production
  • Energy resources, such as peat and plant matter
  • Nutrient retention in floodplains

The Ramsar Convention

The Ramsar Convention takes a broad approach in determining the wetlands which come under its aegis. Under the text of the Convention (Article 1.1), wetlands are defined as:

“areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, 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 six metres”.

Criteria for Identification of Wetlands under Ramsar Convention

  • contains a representative, rare, or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type.
  • supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species; or threatened ecological communities.
  • supports populations of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region.
  • supports plant and/or animal species at a critical stage in their life cycles or provides refuge during adverse conditions.
  • regularly supports 20,000 or more water birds.
  • regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of water birds.
  • supports a significant proportion of indigenous fish subspecies
  • is an important source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path.
  • is an important source of food and water resource, increased possibilities for recreation and eco-tourism, etc.


The total number of Ramsar sites in India is 37 from 27.

(Updated on February, 2019)

Sl. No.Name of SiteState LocationArea (in Sq. km.)
1Asthamudi WetlandKerala614
2Bhitarkanika MangrovesOrissa650
3Bhoj WetlandsMadhya Pradesh32.01
4Chandertal WetlandHimachal Pradesh0.49
5Chilka LakeOrissa1165
6Deepor BeelAssam40
7East Calcutta WetlandsWest Bengal125
8Harike LakePunjab41
9Hokera WetlandJammu and Kashmir13.75
10Kanjli LakePunjab1.83
11Keoladeo Ghana NPRajasthan28.73
12Kolleru LakeAndhra Pradesh901
13Loktak LakeManipur266
14Nalsarovar Bird SanctuaryGujarat120
15Point CalimereTamil Nadu385
16Pong Dam LakeHimachal Pradesh156.62
17Renuka WetlandHimachal Pradesh0.2
18Ropar LakePunjab13.65
19Rudrasagar LakeTripura2.4
20Sambhar LakeRajasthan240
21Sasthamkotta LakeKerala3.73
22Sunderbans WetlandWest Bengal4230
23Surinsar-Mansar LakesJammu and Kashmir3.5
24Tsomoriri LakeJammu and Kashmir120
25Upper Ganga River (Brijghat to Narora Stretch)Uttar Pradesh265.9
26Vembanad Kol WetlandKerala1512.5
27Wular LakeJammu & Kashmir189
Total Area (in Sq. km.)11121.31

 (Source:  Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India


The Ramsar Convention has declared 10 more wetlands in India as sites of international importance. This brings the total number of Ramsar sites in India to 37 from 27. The details of newly included wetlands are as follows-

  • Nandur Madhameshwar

 The first Ramsar site in Maharashtra.

It is a mosaic of lakes, marshes and riparian forest on the Deccan Plateau. Construction of the Nandur Madhameshwar Weir at the confluence of the Godavari and Kadwa Rivers helped create a thriving wetland.

Its diverse habitats contrast with the surrounding semi-arid conditions caused by the rain shadow of the Western Ghats mountain range.

It provides sanctuary to critically endangered species including Deolali minnow (a fish), Indian vulture and whiterumped vulture.

  • Saman Bird Sanctuary (Mainpuri, UP)

 On the Ganges floodplain, It is a seasonal oxbow lake.

The Sanctuary is particularly important as a wintering site for many migrants including the greylag goose, with over 1% of the South Asian population present during winter.

  • Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary (Unnao, UP)

 It is a shallow marshland.

Monsoon rains feed this diverse wetland while the Sarda Canal supplies additional water.

It is known to host Siberian cranes among migratory bird species that rest here during the winter months.

  • Samaspur Bird Sanctuary (Raebareli, UP)

It is a perennial lowland marsh typical of the Indo-Gangetic Plains in Uttar Pradesh.

It has six connected lakes are heavily dependent on monsoon rains.

The Sanctuary harbours threatened species such as the endangered Egyptian vulture and Pallas’s fish eagle and more than 1% of the South Asian population of the vulnerable common pochard.

A tall grass called “Sarpat” is also found in bunches at every spot.

  • Sandi Bird Sanctuary (Hardoi, UP)

 It is a freshwater marsh, also designated as Important Bird Area by Birdlife International.

The Sandi Bird sanctuary is also known by its ancient name as “Dahar Jheel” (Jheel = Lake).

Near the sanctuary River Garra, formerly known as Garun Ganga, passes.

It is home to over 1% of the South Asian populations of common teal, red-crested pochard and ferruginous duck while vulnerable sarus crane has a population of 200 individuals within the Sanctuary.

The Sanctuary dried out leading to a subsequent collapse in waterbird populations from 2014 to 2015.

  • Parvati Arga Bird Sanctuary (UP)

It is a permanent freshwater environment consisting of two oxbow lakes.

They are rain-fed lakes in a deep natural depression in the Gangetic plains of the terai region of Uttar Pradesh.

The Sanctuary is a refuge for some of India’s threatened vulture species: the critically endangered white-rumped vulture and Indian vulture and the endangered Egyptian vulture have all been recorded.

Invasive species such as the common water hyacinth along with the development of roads and railways present significant threats.

  • Sarsai Nawar Jheel (Etawah, UP)

 This typical wetland of the Indo-Gangetic floodplain in Uttar Pradesh is fed by precipitation run-off from the South West monsoon rains.

It is an example of co-habitation of humans and wildlife: farming practices across most of the Site play important roles in sustaining the waterbird habitats.

A particular beneficiary is the vulnerable sarus crane, with a population of 400 individuals making up the largest flock in the region. Other threatened species present include the critically endangered white-rumped vulture and endangered woolly-necked stork.

It is recognized by Birdlife International as an Important Bird Area.

  • Beas Conservation Reserve (Punjab)

 It is a 185-kilometre stretch of the Beas River majorly in Punjab. The River is dotted with islands, sand bars and braided channels creating a complex environment supporting substantial biodiversity.

The Reserve hosts the only known population in India of the endangered Indus river dolphin. Further threatened species include the endangered masheer and hog deer as well as the vulnerable smooth-coated otter.

A programme was initiated to re-introduce the critically endangered gharial.

  • Nangal Wildlife Sanctuary (Punjab)

It is Located in the Shiwalik foothills of Punjab which is highly eco-sensitive.

It occupies a human-made reservoir constructed as part of the Bhakra-Nangal Project on Sutlej River in 1961.

The site is of historic importance as the Indian and Chinese Prime Ministers formalized the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence” there in 1954.

  • Keshopur-Miani Community Reserve (Punjab)

It is a mosaic of natural marshes, aquaculture ponds and agricultural wetlands maintained by the annual rainfall runoff.

It is heavily human influenced and includes a series of managed fishponds and cultivated crops such as lotus and chestnut.

The Site is an example of wise use of a community-managed wetland, which provides food for people and supports local biodiversity.


Wetlands Among States

  • Among the big States, Gujarat has the largest area of the wetlands within RFA in the country followed by West Bengal.

Recorded Forest Area (RFA): It refers to all the geographic areas recorded as ‘Forests’ in government records. It consists of Reserved Forests and Protected Forests which have been constituted under the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

  • Among the smaller States/UTs Puducherry followed by Andaman & Nicobar (A&N) Islands have large areas of wetlands within RFA.
  • In the country as a whole there are 62,466 wetlands covering 3.83% of the area within RFA/GW of the country and 8.13% of the total number of wetlands are located within the RFA/GW.

Green Wash (GW): The extent of wooded areas generally shown in light green colour on the Survey of India topological sheets.

 (Source: Forest Report 2019)