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Sunderban Wetlands

Why is it in News?

Indian Sundarbans was accorded the status of ‘Wetland of International Importance’ under the Ramsar Convention in January 2019. Also, Sundarbans is constantly in news for tiger habitats facing extinction.

About Sunderban Wetlands:

  • The Sundarbans is a mangrove area which is formed mainly by the confluence of Ganga, Meghna and Brahamputra River in the Bay of Bengal.
  • It spreads from Hooghly River in West Bengal to Baleshwar River in Bangladesh.
  • Indian Sundarbans constitutes over 60% of the country’s total mangrove forest area.
  • It is the 27th Ramsar Site in India, and with an area of 4,23,000 hectares, it is now the largest protected wetland in the country.
  • India has 40% of the total Sundarban region while 60% of the Sundarban region lies in Bangladesh.
  • The Indian Sundarbans, also a UNESCO world heritage site, is home to the Royal Bengal Tigers.
  • The part of the Sundarban delta, which lies in Bangladesh, was accorded the status of a Ramsar site in 1992.

How did Indian Sundarbans qualify for the Ramsar list?

  • Out of the 9 criterion prescribed by the Ramsar list, sites must satisfy at least 4 criterion to get listed.
  • The Indian Sundarbans met four of the nine criteria required for the status of ‘Wetland of International Importance’ - presence of rare species and threatened ecological communities, biological diversity, significant and representative fish and fish spawning ground and migration path.

What will be the Benefits of this Status?

  • The part of the Sundarban delta, which lies in Bangladesh, was accorded the status of a Ramsar site in 1992, and with Indian Sundarbans getting it too, international cooperation between the two countries for the protection of this unique ecosystem will increase.
  • This could lead to a better synergy in the conservation for flagship species such as the tiger and the northern river terrapin.

Is there any threat to the Sundarban Wetlands?

  • Over 4 million people live in the vicinity of that ecosystem; this has led to the undue pressure on the Sundarbans.
  • Excessive fishing & aquaculture is the other major threat to the wetland ecosystem of that region.
  • Drilling for oil & gas, fredging etc. are other major concerns for this region.

Some Salient Species Endemic to Sundarbans:

  • The Indian Sundarbans is home to the Royal Bengal Tigers.
  • The Indian Sundarbans is also home to a large number of rare and globally threatened species, such as the critically endangered northern river terrapin (Batagur Baska), the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), and the vulnerable Fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus).

The Ramsar Convention:

  • The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty which provides for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. It was signed in 1971 in Iran but came into force in 1975.
  • The Ramsar Convention is the only global environment treaty dealing with a particular ecosystem.

Montreaux Record:

  • Montreaux Record is a register of wetland sites of international importance where changes in ecological character have occurred or are occurring or likely to occur in the future due to pollution or other human interference.
  • It is maintained as a part of the Ramsar list.

Source: TH