World Wetlands Day- Is India committed towards wetland conservation?

World Wetlands Day- Is India committed towards wetland conservation?

As the world celebrates the World Wetlands Day on 2 February, India’s commitment towards wetland conservation comes under scrutiny yet another time. 

This day also coincides with the date of adoption of the Ramsar Convention, which is a global framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. India entered the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1982 and has 26 designated Wetlands of International Importance, with a surface area of above 6 lakh hectares. 

Despite its commitment to the convention, India’s revised wetland rules implemented in 2017 drew flak from environmentalists and social activists as it dissolved the Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority and did not list specific activities prohibited in the ecologically sensitive areas.

Conservationists argued that the new rules manifested India’s clear objective of easing business in the hydrologically sensitive areas which will have long and irreversible bearings on the ecosystem and climate change. It failed to distinguish between existing and past wetlands which have been encroached. It was also contested as the provisions seemed to be liberal on the subjective definition of ‘wise use’ of wetland resources. 

In the lack of a proper regulatory framework for conservation of wetlands, the onus of mitigating the risks of climate change as a result of wetlands depletion has slowly shifted towards civil society networks, alliances and private sectors in India.

The economically marginalised and their dependence on wetlands 
“If you cannot reserve the alternative water resources, you lose the capacity to adapt to the climate change impacts,” says Partha J Das, Environment scientist, Aaranyak
Aaranyak, an implementation partner of Oxfam India’s TROSA project, is a leading wildlife NGO based in Guwahati, Assam. It is a Scientific, Industrial Research and frontline environmental organization of India. 

world wetlands day
Photo by Shailendra Yashwant 

Wetlands are perceived to be landlocked shallow water bodies with no utility, hence the encroachment on such water bodies in a common phenomenon. Wetlands are being silently filled up everywhere, every day for urban settlements which impacts the livelihood, food security and nutrition sources of the poor and the marginalized.
 
Wetland resources are crucial for income generation, livelihood and wellbeing of the communities. However, due to lack of effective management mechanisms and proper appreciation of their true worth, wetlands have continued to be degraded through unsustainable activities, conversion and overexploitation. 

Poorest communities are the heart and soul of work at Oxfam India 
Oxfam India’s humanitarian response and disaster resilience building have always focused on the poorest of the poor. The response framework is designed with an objective to make the communities resilient against impacts of climate change often manifested through repetitive floods in states like Assam, Manipur etc. 
Wetlands perform vital ecological functions like flood mitigation and moisture retention which largely works for the poor and agrarian communities. These communities lose their lives, livelihoods and food sources under the impact of disasters caused as a result of climate change. Hence wetland conservation is imperative for minimizing the impacts of climate change on the poor and marginalized communities. 

climate change and sustainable development goals for water resource management
Photo by Shailendra Yashwant 

Oxfam and water resources in India and South Asia 
Oxfam India and its partners in Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar seek to fight conditions of poverty for the communities living in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna and the Salween river basins through improved access and control over water resources. 

The Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA) is a five-year (2016-2021) regional programme being jointly implemented by Oxfam and its partners in Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar to understand and address the challenges related to transboundary rivers. TROSA project aims to achieve positive change in the lives of marginalized and vulnerable riparian communities who are susceptible to the repercussions of climate change. 

the World Wetlands Day on 2 January, India’s commitment towards wetland conservation comes under scrutiny yet another time
Photo by Shailendra Yashwant 

The project attempts mainly to reach to the excluded and marginalised water dependent livelihood groups by reducing the vulnerabilities caused by water resources.
This project has been supported by SIDA. Know more here.

Wetlands in India account for 4.7% of the total geographical area of the country.
•    These wetlands provide numerous ecosystem goods and services but are under stress. 
•    Reasons for wetlands loss in India are urbanization, land use changes and pollution.
•    There is no proper regulatory framework for conservation of wetlands in India. 
•    Future research should focus on institutional factors influencing their condition.

Humanitarian Response and DRR

Oxfam India saves lives by building the resilience of communities to disasters and conflict

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