Tamil Nadu: Going from just 1 to 10 Ramsar wetland sites within a fortnight

For two decades, Kodiakkarai was the only Ramsar site in Tamil Nadu. The state has now equalled the tally of Uttar Pradesh in a short span of time.

ByPrasanna R S

Published Aug 06, 2022 | 12:16 PMUpdatedDec 02, 2022 | 4:08 PM

Udhayamarthandapuram Ramsar wetland, Tamil Nadu

Just a week after three wetlands in Tamil Nadu received the Ramsar tag, six more sites in the state were accorded the coveted recognition on 3 August — Koonthankulam, Vedanthangal, Vellode and Udhayamarthandapuram bird sanctuaries, Vembannur wetland complex, and the Gulf of Mannar marine biosphere reserve.

How many Ramsar sites in Tamil Nadu?

Tamil Nadu now has 10 Ramsar sites, equalling the tally of Uttar Pradesh.

How did the state go from a solitary Ramsar site — Kodiakkarai (Point Calimere) — till last week (25 July) to so many wetlands of international importance within a short span of time?

Meticulous Ramsar process and the Tamil Nadu turnaround

Jayshree Vencatesan of Care Earth Trust, an NGO which was involved in the process of filing the Ramsar Site Information Sheet (RIS) for six of the nine sites in Tamil Nadu that have received the tag recently, told South First, “Once Point Calimere (Kodiakkarai) was rightly declared a Ramsar site [in 2002], it was thought that other wetlands would automatically follow suit. But after that, not much effort was taken.”

“The RIS that we file for the Ramsar process is very data-intensive. The parameters are very detailed, so the data should be organised meticulously and then submitted. But not much information was collected till the past few years. The project to draft the RIS for 16 wetlands was given to us in 2020. Now we have done the same for four more wetlands,” she said.

The state always had a lot of wetlands and in 2021, it initiated the Tamil Nadu Wetlands Mission.

In addition to the current sites, according to a report in The New Indian Express earlier this year, the state is looking to get Ramsar recognition for four more areas — Chitrangudi, Kanjirankulam and Vaduvur bird sanctuaries, and the Suchindram-Theroor wetland complex.

How many Ramsar sites in India?

India now has 64 Ramsar wetlands of international importance. Apart from the six sites in Tamil Nadu, other wetlands in India that received the Ramsar tag are the Ranganathittu bird sanctuary in Karnataka, Satkosia gorge in Odisha, Nanda lake in Goa, and Sirpur wetland.

The Convention on Wetlands, an intergovernmental treaty, was signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971. The Ramsar secretariat, which takes the call on granting the “wetland of international importance” tag, is based in Switzerland.

Will Ramsar tag lead to more funds for wetlands?

Funds are just a peripheral aspect, explained Vencatesan from Care Earth, which has done extensive work on Pallikaranai marsh in Chennai, one of the new Ramsar sites in Tamil Nadu.

“The Ramsar tag should foster a wise use of the wetlands. To define what wise use is, we need an integrated management plan for the sites. And we have prepared it for Pallikaranai and Pulicat,” Vencatesan said.