Numaligarh: It was on February 2, 1971 at Ramsar in Iran when the world seriously addressed the issue of vanishing wetlands. The Ramsar Convention has established a vision for policymakers and people at large so that humanity does not plug out the lifeline for all life forms. February 2 is celebrated as World Wetlands Day when conservationists redeem the guidelines, concerns and the pledge for wetland conservation.
This year’s theme for Wetlands Day is ‘Wetlands and Biodiversity’. It calls for exploring and appreciating the pool of biodiversity which feeds upon wetlands. The Corbett Foundation and Kaziranga National Park together organized an event with multiple activities at one of the wetlands overlooking Kaziranga National Park on Sunday. Nearly 200 people, mostly students, researchers, women, media representatives, village panchayat members and volunteers assembled to appreciate the gift bestowed upon us by wetlands.
Seasoned naturalists from Kaziranga spared time to focus on the bird diversity around the wetland. The students could see ecological niche and functionality of over 38 species of birds. P Sivakumar, IFS, Director of Kaziranga National Park and Field Director, Kaziranga Tiger Reserve, spoke about the contribution of wetlands through rich biodiversity, water purification, groundwater recharge, livelihood and other ecological services.
Wetlands support almost 40 per cent of the diversity of plants and animals and still they remain neglected. Over 1,00,000 freshwater species are considered to be surviving in wetlands but when it comes to urban planning, the wetlands are the first to be encroached upon. Unplanned growth of Bengaluru is an example of wetlands bring drained, filled and encroached.
It is estimated that around 1 billion people secure livelihood around wetlands. The role of wetlands as carbon sink was explained to the participants during the event by the Corbett Foundation. Everyone seemed to be surprised to know that the rate of degradation and loss of wetlands was three times faster than that of forest. Nearly 35 per cent of all the wetlands globally has been lost in the last five decades only.
Dr Naveen Pandey, Deputy Director of the Corbett Foundation, explained that the community would need to be aware of the previous wetlands it had inherited. “Most of the wetlands fall outside protected areas in the world and thus their protection will need the community’s cooperation,” Dr Pandey added.