Wetlands in South Asia

The region of South Asia knows many wetlands of great importance. These can vary in altitudes from coastal wetlands at the Southern shores of India and Kerala Backwaters to the Ruoergai Marshes at the foot of the Himalaya.

Below follow short descriptions of just a few of the many South Asia’s wetlands. Within our organization it is the Wetlands International South Asia (WiSA) or India office that works in this region.

Peatland in Ruoergai

The Ruoergai marshes on the Eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau are one of the world’s largest high altitude peatlands. The peatlands play an important role in regulating the flow of the Yellow River, the Yangtze and the Lancang River and therefore in the livelihoods of millions downstream.

The peatlands are becoming heavily degraded due to overgrazing, drainage and mining of peat for fuel. Water levels are decreasing leading to ecosystem degradation, peat loss and desertification. As a consequence the capacity of the area to store excess rainwater is diminishing, magnifying the impacts of climate change downstream.

Vembanad Kol

Vembanad Kol located within backwaters of Kerala is essentially a brackish water system bestowed with unique biodiversity which provides livelihood support to a large community depending upon its resources for their sustenance.

The wetland system has been hub of the economic activities due to its location within the largest urban and industrial agglomeration in Kerala. It is also favoured destination for foreign and domestic tourists for recreation.

Jhelum River Basin

River Jhelum is the life line of Kashmir. The entire basin is dotted with wetlands ranging from glaciated lakes within the hills to floodplain lakes and marshes within the valley.

The lakes, directly or indirectly connected with River Jhelum, have been of great tourist attraction due to their scenic beauty. Among these, Dal Lake has received a lot of attention and is the main tourist attraction of the valley.

Wular Lake

Wular Lake lake is part of the Jehlum Basin. Once the largest lake in Asia it has been grossly ignored despite its rich biodiversity and significant role in hydrography of Kashmir. The Wular Lake with its associated wetlands supports rich biodiversity and provides important habitats for migratory waterbirds within Central Asian Flyway.

The lake has a storage capacity of 170 million cubic metres of water, which is fed by glaciers that are receding at a pace that is amongst the fastest in the world. The lake is the largest fisheries resource in Kashmir Valley supporting livelihoods of large human population living along its fringes.

Ruoergai peatland on the Eastern edge of the Tibetian Plateau

The Wular Lake is the largest fisheries resource in Kashmir Valley