Inclusion and development convergence key to taking wetlands convergence beyond protected areas

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On the occasion of World Wetlands Day, the Forest Department, Government of Haryana, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and Wetlands International South Asia are holding a series of five webinars on seminal topics related to wetlands conservation in the state as well as the national level. The third webinar of the series, titled – “taking wetlands conservation beyond protected areas” was held on January 29, 2022. Ms Anchal Arya, Lifestyle Columnist and Trainer with United States Embassy anchored the event, attended by over 40 participants from all over India. The event was also live-streamed.

Dr Vivek Saxena (Managing Director, Haryana Forest Development Corporation) introduced the webinar bringing to the fore the importance of multi-stakeholder engagement starting from community to corporate to achieve the common goal of wetland conservation. He also shared the success of the endeavours for pond rejuvenation in Haryana, which could serve as a role model for other states.

Chairperson, Mr Chandra Prakash Goyal (Director General of Forest & Special Secretary, MoEFCC) highlighted the importance of wetlands as cradles of civilizations and kidneys of landscapes. Almost two-thirds of wetlands in our country are outside the protected area network and are under enormous pressure due to anthropogenic pressure. Community participation is the key in this regard as he cited the examples of Jal Jivan mission as an effective platform to raise massive awareness about wetlands conservation. Mr. Goyal cited examples of Uttar Pradesh wherein fishermen were brought into the conservation programming in Sitapur wetlands, leading to improved livelihoods of fishers while also ensuring stewardship of Sarus crane populations.

Mr. S P Yadav, Member Secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority; Additional Director General, Wildlife & Forest Conservation, Member Secretary, Central Zoo Authority, said that importance of wetlands stemmed from their ecological functions and location in landscape. He informed that a mapping of water sources in tiger landscapes brought to fore the value protected areas played in making the entire region water and climate secure. Dr Ajit Pattnaik Vice President Wetlands International South Asia (Former PCCF, Govt of Odisha) focused on the role of community engagement and strategic behavior change communication in stakeholder engagement in wetlands conservation. Ms. Manisha Choudhary, National Coordinator, PAGE-India, UN Environment Programme, pointed out the financing gaps in wetlands conservation can be addressed by building development sector convergence.

Concluding the discussions, Dr Ritesh Kumar (Director, Wetlands International South Asia) remarked that it is pertinent that wetland conservation looks beyond protected areas and regulation-based approaches, to build convergence with sectoral development planning and investments.