Threatened wetlands that deserve our attention

In South Asia, as well as in many parts of the world, wetlands are under threat of degradation or disappearance. Therefore, Wetlands International is directing its efforts and funding towards those wetlands whose loss will have an enduring negative impact on the surroundings and impoverishment of local communities.

There are many examples of wetlands that deserve our attention and who are receiving our attention. Below are some examples. Furthermore, all projects in these threatened wetlands can also be found in the projects database.

Loktak Lake, India

Loktak Lake, the largest wetland of north-eastern region of India, was traditionally used for agriculture and fisheries since time immemorial. Local people sustainably managed its rich biodiversity including highly endangered ungulate species, locally called Sangai.

However, the onslaught of unsustainable developmental activities without understanding the nature of the wetland ecosystem has led to the degradation and loss of benefits naturally accrued from them through their natural process and functioning.

The denudation of lake catchments due to jhum farming, deforestation and increasing demands of fodder, fuel and other forest products contributed to enhanced siltation and reduction of its water holding capacity.  Construction of hydraulic structures for irrigation and hydropower generation further compounded the problems of lake siltation, nutrient enrichment and reduced migration of fish species.

Chilika lake, India

A million people live of this unique lagoon along the east coast of India. About 800,000 are farmers, the rest live from fishing. Yet this lagoon, so vital for people’s livelihoods and a hotspot for many rare and endangered species, is under increasing pressure.

Development has altered hydrological regimes and reduced biodiversity. Less water is now flowing into the lagoon, which causes saltwater to intrude and the lagoon mouth to choke. As a result, there has been less fish migration and therefore less catch for fishermen. In the end, people got poorer and are sometimes forced to migrate to other areas.

Farmers too have suffered. The construction of embankments along rivers upstream just piped the water faster downstream. Floods are now much longer and agricultural production has much decreased. And in the dry season, the Narraj barrage upstream provides irrigation in the upstream area, but blocks water from coming downstream.