2nd February of each year is celebrated as World Wetlands Day (WWD) to mark the date of adoption of the Ramsar Convention – an international treaty established in 1971 to provide the framework for international collaboration and national action for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. Each year, WWD is linked to a specific theme to draw the global community’s attention to issues related to wetlands conservation. The 2024 theme – ‘Wetlands and Human Wellbeing’ focuses on the significant role of the interconnectedness among wetlands and different parts of human prosperity, including physical, mental, and environmental wellbeing.
Dr Ritesh Kumar, Director, Wetlands International South Asia welcomed the guests
To mark WWD, Wetlands International South Asia organised a public event at Juniper Hall, India Habitat Center, New Delhi to sensitize society to the multiple values of wetlands and their role in human well-being. Ms Sunita Narain, Director General, Centre for Science and Environment, was the Chief Guest. The event was attended by 63 dignitaries from central government agencies, international organizations, academia, civil society, media and experts (Agenda at Annex 1).
Dr Sidharth Kaul, President, Wetlands International South Asia and Ms Sunita Narain, Director General, CSE, on stage
25 years of work in service of wetlands and people
Dr Sidharth Kaul (President, Wetlands International South Asia) introduced the theme of the World Wetlands Day 2024 and highlighted the continuous efforts of Wetlands International South Asia for more than 25 years towards wetlands conservation and wise use. Dr Kaul shared the journey of wetlands conservation from a focus on two sites to a presence in 17 states and Bangladesh and Nepal. An overview of the work of the organisation on wetlands inventory and assessment, management planning, mainstreaming in development, supporting international commitments, and capacity development at various levels. The organisation’s role in galvanising wetlands conservation by promoting an all-of-society approach to wetlands conservation was highlighted.
Dr Sidharth Kaul (President, Wetlands International South Asia) introduced the theme of the World Wetlands Day 2024
The two publications being released on the occasion of World Wetlands Day
A World Wetland Day poster with the theme “Wetlands and Human Wellbeing” highlighting the urgent need to safeguard wetlands for human wellbeing and prosperity was released. Sarovar, a newsletter of Wetland International South Asia with the theme ‘Ecological restoration of wetlands’ was also released by the Chief Guest and President of Wetland International South Asia.
A call to broaden wetlands conservation
Ms Sunita Narain commenced her keynote address by emphasising the wetlands’ immense ecological significance. She stated that while the Ramsar designation is crucial for identifying significant wetlands, more integrated and cross-sectoral strategies are required to protect wetlands in our complex development settings. Wetlands need to be repositioned beyond their ecological value to their role as vital components of water and food security in an increasingly climate insecure world. The urban planning approaches had tended to disconnect wetlands as local water security solutions, and instead focused heavily on getting water from upstream sources through engineering means. In an increasingly contested and water scarce environment, these approaches have only aggravated water conflicts. On the other hand, an increase in sewage generation, without investment in effective sewage management solutions had led to use of wetlands and rivers as wastelands. She called for reconnecting wetlands to urban planning and water security solutions.
Ms Sunita Narain called for using livelihood-centered approaches
Ms Narain also called for using livelihood-centered approaches focusing on the value of wetlands as providers of food and income. The case of Makhana was cited as an example. By addressing livelihood aspects, wetlands conservation could be made more impactful and community-owned.
In her closing remarks, she urged Wetlands International South Asia and other stakeholders to collaborate in order to protect these super-systems for the betterment of nature and humankind.
Wetlands: Nature-Based Solutions
A panel discussion on ‘Wetlands: Nature-Based Solutions’ was organised in the second session. The session was chaired by Prof. J. K. Garg (Vice President, Wetland International South Asia). Dr Anupam Joshi (Senior Environment Specialist, The World Bank), Mr Nimal Raghavan (Founder, Mega Foundations), and Ms Archana Chatterjee (Programme Manager, IUCN India) participated in the panel discussion.
Panel discussion on ‘Wetlands: Nature-Based Solutions’ was organised.
Dr Anupam Joshi, Senior Environmental Specialist at the World Bank, elaborated on the unparalleled importance of wetlands conservation as nature-based solutions in poverty eradication and inter-generational equity. He said the World Bank is determined to integrate nature-based solutions in their organisation’s mission and strategy to eradicate poverty and make the planet livable. He highlighted the value of blended solutions, integrating wetlands with conventional gray infrastructure to address increasing climate risks.
Dr Anupam Joshi elaborated on the importance of wetlands conservation as a nature-based solution.
Mr Nimal Raghavan, Founder of Mega Foundations, shared learnings from his journey of restoring over 180 wetlands in India. Adopting a whole-of-society approach and ecological approaches such as the Miyawaki afforestation technique and re-establishing hydrological connectivity in the catchment, his efforts have helped rejuvenate wetlands and reduce water insecurity. He spotlighted the value of local community engagement and ownership in sustaining the outcomes of rejuvenation efforts.
Mr Nimal Raghavan elaborates on his journey of restoring wetlands
Ms Archana Chatterjee presented an outline of IUCN’s work on developing international guidelines on NbS. She outlined opportunities for using wetland solutions to address challenges such as coastal erosion, increasing disaster risk vulnerability and others—the role of traditional water systems, such as Ahar pynes as NbS was discussed.
Ms Archana Chatterjee presented an outline of IUCN’s work on developing international guidelines on NbS
The audience engaged in a discussion with the panelists
The session included vibrant engagement with the attendees who called for localization of international guidelines and increased local action for wetlands conservation. Concluding the panel discussions, Prof J K Garg stressed upscaling investment in wetlands restoration, as well as the use of standard terminology and ecologically informed interventions to guide local actions.
Team Wetlands International South Asia after the World Wetlands Day event
Annex 1: Agenda
13.15 – 14.00 Registration and Lunch
14.00 – 14.05 Welcome
Dr Ritesh Kumar, Director, Wetlands International South Asia
14.05 – 14.20 World Wetlands Day – An introduction
Dr Sidharth Kaul, President, Wetlands International South Asia
14.20 – 14.25 Release of publications
Newsletter Sarovar, WWD Poster
14.25 – 14.55 Keynote address
Ms Sunita Narain, Director General, Centre for Science and Environment
14.55 – 15.00 Vote of thanks
Dr Asghar Nawab, Programme Head (Aquatic Ecology), Wetlands International South Asia
15.00 – 15.45 Seminar – “Wetlands: Nature-based Solutions”
Dr Anupam Joshi, Senior Environment Specialist, The World Bank Mr Nimal Raghavan, Founder, Mega Foundations
Ms Archana Chatterjee, Programme Manager, IUCN-India
15.45 – 15.55 Participation from floor
15.55 – 16.00 Session Summary and Way Ahead
Prof J K Garg, Vice President, Wetlands International South Asia
16.00 onwards High Tea