Ramsar Sites: Managing our Crown Jewels –World Wetlands Day Webinar Series

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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 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 first webinar of the series, titled – Ramsar Sites: Managing our Crown Jewels was held on January 24, 2022.

Dr Vivek Saxena (Managing Director, Haryana Forest Development Corporation) opened the webinar series, highlighting the theme of the World Wetlands Day -‘Wetlands action for people and nature’. Dr Saxena called for the urgent need to invest financial, human and political capital to save the world’s wetlands from disappearing and to restore those we have degraded. Ms Anchal Arya, Lifestyle Columnist and Trainer with United States Embassy anchored the event, attended by over 100 participants from all over India. The event began with the Biodiversity Anthem composed by Grammy Award-winning composer and environmentalist Ricky Kej.

Mr Jagdish Chander (Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, and Chief Wildlife Warden) chaired the session. In his remarks, Mr Chander mentioned the diverse values of wetlands, their role in making society food, water and climate secure, while providing habitat for diverse species. He also mentioned the ways in which local traditions and customs have been the major drivers of affirmative behaviour for wetlands, and extolled for stakeholder participation in all wetlands management efforts.

Dr V.B. Mathur (Chairperson, National Biodiversity Authority) stressed that wetlands form the very basis of sustainable development, and thereby their conservation needs to be converged with developmental planning. Bringing wetlands within the ambit of biodiversity registers, designating wetlands as biodiversity heritage sites and expanding the existing network to include flyway bottleneck sites were key recommendations from Dr Mathur.

Ms Manju Pandey (Joint Secretary (Wetlands), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) mentioned that India is set to expand her network of Ramsar Sites to 75, coinciding with India’s 75th Independence Day. However, it is imperative that the commitment for wise use is met in letter and spirit by putting in place effective management arrangements, Ms Pandey remarked.

Dr Lokendra Thakkar (Officer in-charge, Madhya Pradesh State Wetlands Authority) mentioned that Ramsar Convention served as a very potent instrument to conserve Bhoj Wetlands. The state has decided to expand the network by bringing in three additional sites. Dr Thakkar suggested that financial support to wetlands management be provided with a concomitant guidance on wetlands notification and putting in place an effective regulation mechanism.

Dr Ritesh Kumar (Director, Wetlands International South Asia) focused on the management aspects of Ramsar Sites and the need to factor in climate risks more effectively through tools such as scenario building. The need to expand the Ramsar Site network beyond existing protected area networks was also recommended, alongside implementing a system of management effectiveness assessment.