- The Sunderban Reserve Forest is likely to be declared a Ramsar Site soon as the West Bengal government gave its approval to the State Forest Department to apply for recognition under the Ramsar Convention.
About Ramsar Convention
- The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an inter-governmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
- The convention on Wetlands was signed at Ramsar, Iran, in 1971.
- It is the only global environment treaty dealing with a particular ecosystem.
- It was developed as a means to call international attention to the rate at which wetland habitats were disappearing, in part due to a lack of understanding of their important functions, values, goods and services.
- There are currently 26 sites in India recognised as Ramsar wetland sites of international importance, including the East Kolkata Wetlands also in West Bengal.
- World Wetlands Day is celebrated each year on 2 February, which marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.
Major obligations of countries which are party to the Convention are:
- Designate wetlands for inclusion in the List of Wetlands of International Importance.
- Promote the wise use of wetlands in their territory.
- Promote international cooperation especially with regard to trans-boundary wetlands, shared water systems and shared species.
- Create wetland reserves.
Montreux Record under the Convention is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where:
- Changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.
- It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List.
- The Montreux Record was established by the Conference of the Contracting Parties in1990.
- The Montreux Record should be employed to identify priority sites for positive national and international conservation attention.
- Sites may be added to and removed from the Record only with the approval of the Contracting Parties in which they lie.
- Sunderbans is a contiguous ecosystem spread across India and Bangladesh, over 4,260 sq. km. with over 2,000 sq. km. of mangrove forests and creeks.
- The mangrove forests of Sundarbans comprise almost 43% of the mangrove cover in the country according to a 2017 Forest Survey of India report.
- Sunderbans was identified as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 for its exclusive biodiversity.
Importance of Sundarbans
- The biodiversity of the Sunderbans is diverse and the delta has the distinction of encompassing the world’s largest mangrove forest belt with 84 identified flora species, of which 34 are true mangroves and is also home to about 100 Royal Bengal tigers
- The Sunderbans is a major pathway for nutrient recycling and pollution abatement.
- Sunderbans is known for the protection it provides to nearly 4.5 million people on the Indian side and another 3.5 million on the Bangladesh portion from tidal surge generated by cyclonic depression in the Bay of Bengal.
- It is also source for the abundant fish and biomass resources like timber, fuel-wood, pulpwood, leaves, shells, crabs, honey and fish, which are harvested by local communities.
Major threats to Sundarbans
- Climate change
- Sea level rise
- Widespread construction around forest
- Clearing of mangrove forests for fisheries
- A coal-based thermal power plant at Rampal which is just a few kilometres north of the reserve forest in Bangladesh
Significance of Ramsar tag for Sundarbans
- Once conferred a Ramsar site status, it will be the largest protected wetland in the country.
- It will bring a lot of international scientific attention and intervention to the area.
- The Ramsar tag will also help in promoting the Sunderbans as an eco-tourism hotspot.
- It will ensure better conservation as any threat to the ecosystem or change in character will mean derecognition and an international embarrassment.