J&K Wetlands: A wing of hope
FEB 02 - World Wetlands Day
By: MANZOOR WANI
Every year February 2 is celebrated as World Wetlands Day to raise international awareness about the significant role of wetlands for people and our planet. This day marks the date of adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance’ in 1971. Currently, India has 37 Ramsar designated wetlands of international importance. Ramsar Sites of Union Territory of J&K are 03 including Wular Lake, the largest freshwater lake in India.
Wetlands are pertinent for our wellbeing, inclusive economic growth and climate mitigation & adaptation. They are the most significant source of fresh water for our consumption, agriculture, and maintaining our groundwater table by naturally recharging and filtering it. They act as a natural water sink. They are the most significant terrestrial ecosystem for carbon sequestration & working as a natural systematic carbon sink system. They act as an ‘Ecosystem System Based Disaster Risk Reduction’ structure protecting shores and providing cities and settlements with a safe and climate-resilient prospect. They provide sustainable livelihoods for the community welfare and offer a healthy ecosystem for exploring multiple ecosystem services and benefits in parallel to abundant biodiversities, such as ecological systems support. These low-cost EcoDRR structures provide not only community resilience against water-related risks but enabling communities to provide multiple ecosystem services better. Wetlands serve as upstream retention basins protecting downstream cities from flood risk.
Jammu and Kashmir has many wetlands of national importance and international recognition. These water bodies are critical source of livelihood and job opportunities for a large number of population in the form of fishing, farming, tourism etc. Moreover, most of the wetlands in the region fall under Central Asian Flyway Zone (CAF) and are visited by lakhs of migratory and endangered birds during their annual migration march. These wetland areas also provide safe refuge to native vegetation and wild animals. Their protection is crucial to combat the dual impact of climate change, water scarcity and flooding.
Wings of Hope:
The J&K region has a large number of wetlands. However, their ecological and socio-economic values were rarely explored and these wetlands are currently facing multi-dimensional threats due to human encroachments and government apathy. Public awareness is an important factor in saving wetlands of J&K. The famous wetlands in J&K are Hokersar, Surisar-Mansar lakes and Wular lake. These wetlands face serious threat from anthropogenic activities like increasing human settlements, urbanization.
Agenda 2030 provides a broader roadmap for national and international policy action for governments, civil society, NGOs and other state/non state actors to achieve S. D. G.s for our present and future generations. Our wetland provides a wide range of natural capital flow in terms of ecosystem services for people and the community’s life and livelihood. Our wetlands could have been developed into important tourism as well as a research destination. Placing a value on nature’s ecosystem services shouldn’t be misconstrued as putting a price on nature. This situation is the right time for the government to setup wetland governance to protect, conserve and restore wetlands in the state for ensuring a climate-resilient and water surplus future. We can survive against natural disasters by restoring, rejuvenating and restructuring our natural ecosystem to become healthier and resilient.
- The writer is Research Student of forestry at Dr. BR Ambedkar University Agra UP and can be reached at [email protected]