World Wetlands Day, 2023: Amrit Dharohar Scheme, Announced in The Budget, Will Encourage Optimal Use Of Wetlands

World Wetlands Day, 2023: Amrit Dharohar Scheme, Announced in The Budget, Will Encourage Optimal Use Of Wetlands

by Karan Kamble - Feb 2, 2023 07:55 PM +05:30 IST
World Wetlands Day, 2023: Amrit Dharohar Scheme, Announced in The Budget, Will Encourage Optimal Use Of WetlandsPichavaram Mangrove Forest (Photo: Karthik Easvur/Wikimedia Commons)
  • The theme for World Wetlands Day this year is wetland restoration. Therefore, the announcement about wetlands made in the budget 2023 was also quite timely.

Today is World Wetlands Day, 2023. This day is marked every year to raise awareness about wetlands. 

It was decided thus after a resolution to the effect was approved by the United Nations General Assembly on 30 August 2021.

World Wetlands Day, however, goes back much longer. It is being held since 1997, when it was fist established, by the parties to the Convention on Wetlands.

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

It was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar (hence the familiar nicknames “Ramsar Convention” and “Ramsar list”) in 1971 and came into force in 1975.

In fact, it was on this day in 1971 that the Convention on Wetlands was adopted as an international treaty.

Wetlands, as the name might suggest, are land areas that are saturated or flooded with water either permanently or seasonally.

Technically speaking, wetlands, as defined in Article 1.1 of the Convention on Wetlands, are “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.”

According to the Secretariat of the Convention on Wetlands, “Wetlands are critically important ecosystems that contribute to biodiversity, climate mitigation and adaptation, freshwater availability, world economies and more.”

About 40 per cent of the world’s plant and animal species depend on wetlands, including 30 per cent of all known fish species. Global inland and coastal wetlands cover over 12.1 million square kilometres (sq km). For perspective, India occupies an area of 3.2 million sq km.

Unfortunately, the world is losing wetlands three times faster than forests. About 35 per cent of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since the 1970s.

The timely theme for World Wetlands Day this year is wetland restoration. Therefore, the announcement about wetlands made just yesterday (1 February) was also quite timely.

In her budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman mentioned “Amrit Dharohar” — a government scheme that will encourage the optimal use of wetlands, while enhancing biodiversity, carbon stock, ecotourism, and incomes for local communities.

The scheme, which is said to be in the vein of the conservation values exhibited commonly by local communities, will be implemented over the next three years.

“Wetlands are vital ecosystems which sustain biological diversity,” Sitharaman said, adding that India’s Ramsar sites had risen from 26 before 2014 to 75 in 2022.

This was India’s aim — to have a total of 75 Ramsar sites by the seventy-fifth year of Indian Independence.

“The Ramsar sites” list is a special global list of wetlands of international importance.

It was established in response to Article 2.1 of the Convention on Wetlands that called on “Each Contracting Party” (member country) to “designate suitable wetlands within its territory for inclusion” in the list.

India is one of the contracting parties to the Convention, after it signed up on 1 February 1982.

From 1982 to 2013, 26 Indian sites made an entry into the list. But 49 new wetlands were added in the short time frame of 2014 to 2022 — and an astonishing 28 last year itself, taking the total to 75 Indian Ramsar sites.

India's Ramsar sites make up a total area of 13.3 lakh hectares.

Globally, there are over 2,400 Ramsar sites covering a total surface area of more than 250 million hectares.

As part of her budget speech, Sitharaman additionally announced the Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats and Tangible Incomes (MISHTI).

Mangroves are a type of wetland.

Mangrove plantation will be taken up along the coastline and on salt-pan lands, wherever feasible. The initiative will build on India’s success with afforestation, the Finance Minister said.

Sitharaman referred to the 2023 budget as the first one in the Amrit Kaal. “Green growth” has been identified as one of seven priorities, part of the “Saptarishis,” guiding the Amrit Kaal budget.

Budget allocation to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for the year is Rs 3,079.40 crore, which is a 24 per cent increase over last year’s Rs 2,478 crore.

Karan Kamble writes on science and technology. He occasionally wears the hat of a video anchor for Swarajya's online video programmes.

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