Human wellbeing and wetland

Due to various anthropogenic threats, including high loads of pollutants from agricultural runoff, industrial waste and sewage, native species of wetlands are being replaced by invasive species.

BySanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Updated 16 Feb 2024, 9:00 pm

Lamphelpat, Imphal East (PHOTO: X)
Lamphelpat, Imphal East (PHOTO: X)

Wetlands provide habitat to a variety of native species of plant and animals as well as thousands of winter migratory birds. They prevent settlements from getting flooded by absorbing excess rainwater and then releasing it slowly during dry seasons or during droughts. They also help sequestrate carbon, which helps mitigate climate change. Wetlands are an important source of water security, act as buffers in extreme events, provide livelihood to people depending on their produce, act as cultural and recreational hubs and help in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Wetlands provide excellent opportunities for education and research and are good habitats for migratory birds and hot spots of biodiversity. Wetlands are valuable as sources, sinks and transformers of a multitude of biological, chemical and genetic material.

In addition, wetlands have special attributes as the cultural heritage of humanity and have deep connections with our beliefs and practices. Wetlands provide several benefits to humanity and, therefore, need to be conserved and used wisely. In spite of all the benefits provided by wetlands, these ecosystems continue to be degraded, polluted, encroached upon and converted for alternate uses.

A wetland area trend index constructed by Wetlands International South Asia for Indian wetlands based on 237 published data points for 1980 – 2014 indicates an average decline in natural wetlands area by 30 per cent. The rapid loss of natural wetlands is as much a threat to water and climate security as is an environmental crisis.  The current efforts for wetlands conservation are far short by several orders of the rapid pace of degradation of these ecosystems.

The wetlands outside the protected areas are never fenced or demarcated properly leading to encroachments. As per the 2017 rules, district-level wetland authorities for all the 75 districts in the state of UP are to be made with district magistrate as chairperson. However, mapping and demarcation of all wetlands has not been done yet. Many districts have not even convened the meeting of the district wetland authority. Correctly mapping all the wetlands in the state is a critical step in the wetland restoration process.

Till October 2023, as many as 75 wetlands in the country have been categorised as Ramsar sites, out of which 10 are in Uttar Pradesh. The 10 Ramsar sites in Uttar Pradesh provide protection to almost 40,000 ha of water bodies. The 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is the oldest convention related to protection of water bodies. The convention came into force on December, 21, 1975 and India became signatory to it on February 1, 1982.


Wetlands outside the protected areas are being frequently transformed into built-up areas for various development projects, including housing, businesses and road construction. Such activities cause heavy destruction to their existence and the ecosystems they support. There are thousands of wetlands in the districts of Rae Bareli, Hardoi, Lucknow, Barabanki, Sitapur and Baharaich. Hardoi alone has more than 2,000 wetlands. Rae Bareli has lost around 89 per cent of wetlands since 1972. Lucknow lost around 70 per cent of wetlands in the last 50 years. Baghel Taal in Bahraich district, whose perimeter is almost 42 km, is not even declared as wetland, despite being one of the largest wetlands in the state. Its jurisdiction is a subject of confusion between the forest division of Bahraich and Katarniaghat, a nearby protected wildlife sanctuary that encompasses several swamps and wetlands.

Many wetlands are divided between revenue departments of two districts, creating conflicts and confusion in their protection. For example, Haiderpur Wetland, which falls under Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary, is on the border of Bijnore and Muzaffarnagar districts. But the land does not come under the jurisdiction of the forest department of Ignore. In fact, as reported by the Space application Center, Manipur also has 139 wetlands even though that depends on sizes that more than 2.25 hectares. So out of those we could find and verify only 23 wetlands. But as of now, we cannot say that other wetlands are lost.

Now as reported by the State Wetland Authority, which is the Nodal Agency, led by the Director of Environment and Climate Change, it has identified 23 wetlands and documented them for sustainable management. It is also reported in a Local TV channel that Awang Lamphelpat at Tangkham Maning, Sawombung Block, Imphal East, which was once a wetland has lost its original & natural status.

In the absence of any protection, over-extraction of groundwater for intensive irrigation is causing the demise of many of these wetlands. They are routinely tilled; tractors can be seen ploughing wetlands even in the protected areas. Due to various anthropogenic threats, including high loads of pollutants from agricultural runoff, industrial waste and sewage, native species of wetlands are being replaced by invasive species.

Invasive species have the capacity to outcompete native plants and animals within wetlands. This can lead to a disturbance in the ecosystem, ultimately diminishing the overall health of the wetland. It is important to delineate the boundary of the wetlands correctly; generally pre-monsoon water spread of the wetlands is almost half of the post-monsoon water spread. Therefore, the best time to mark the boundary is post-monsoon which shows the actual spread of the wetlands.

The boundary should include all structural components such as marshy area, mudflats and aquatic vegetation. Of the four types of aquatic vegetation found on wetland—floating, emergent, submerged and benthic—only floating and emergent vegetation can be captured by the drone camera or satellite pictures.

Celebrated annually on February 2, World Wetland Day aims to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and the planet to mark the day of the adoption of the Ramsar Convention in 1971. The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation of wetlands.


World Wetland Day has been organised since 1995 to raise awareness of the value of wetlands for nature and society. The theme for World Wetlands Day 2024 is ‘Wetlands and human wellbeing.’ This theme spotlights the interconnectedness wetlands have with human life, with people drawing sustenance, inspiration and resilience from these productive ecosystems. Importantly, this theme underscores how all aspects of human well-being are tied to the health of the world’s wetlands and calls on each of us to value and steward our wetlands. On 30th August 2021, in the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, a resolution was adopted proclaiming 2nd February of each year as World Wetland Day. The commemoration raises awareness and increases people’s understanding of the critical importance of wetlands.

In every corner of the world, human beings have depended on wetlands for centuries, drawing sustenance, inspiration and resilience from these important environments. This year’s theme: ‘Wetlands and Human Wellbeing' highlights the linkages between people, culture and nature.  We need healthy wetlands for our planet, and for our wellbeing. Wetlands are currently protected under different designations, including the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme and the Ramsar Convention on wetlands. Currently almost 100 UNESCO World Heritage wetlands are overlapping wholly or partially with over 140 Ramsar Sites. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the World Heritage Convention safeguard wetland sites covering an area larger than Mexico (245 614 112 ha). 

Despite this protection by these global international treaties – wetlands are still an often overlooked asset of our natural environment. The continuous monitoring and preservation of World Heritage wetlands is a monumental task, and it is impossible for UNESCO and the states parties to do it alone. We are very grateful to combine our efforts with the devotion and expertise of Ramsar and the many other people and organisations we work with, worldwide. 

The Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules of 2010, enacted under the Environment Protection Act of 1986, make it compulsory for the state government to identify, demarcate and officially designate all wetlands across the state within a stipulated period of two years. Further, the state has created a State Wetland Authority after the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules of 2017 shifted the emphasis of wetland management from a central authority to state-level bodies.

The State Wetland Authority is responsible for the conservation and management of wetlands in the state. Apart from these, various laws and regulations have been formulated to protect wetlands and their biodiversity, such as the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. Yet, wetlands in Uttar Pradesh continue to face multiple threats, primarily from encroachments.

(The views expressed are personal)


First published:


Lamphelpatmigratory birdswetlandramsar siteworld wetland day

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Assistant Professor, JCRE Global College, Babupara, Imphal. The writer can be reached at sjugeshwor7@gmail.com


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