What is the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands?

The Ramsar Convention is an intergovernmental treaty usually written in short form as "Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)", it has come to be known popularly as the "Ramsar Convention". Ramsar is the first of the modern global intergovernmental treaties on the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, but, compared with more recent ones, its provisions are relatively straight forward and general. Over the years, the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP) has further developed and interpreted the basic tenets of the treaty text and succeeded in keeping the work of the Convention abreast of changing world perceptions, priorities, and trends in environmental thinking.

The official name of the Treaty, The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat, reflects the original emphasis upon the conservation and wise use of wetlands primarily as habitat for water birds. Over the years, however, the Convention has broadened its scope of implementation to cover all aspects of wetland conservation and wise use, recognizing wetlands as ecosystems that are extremely important for biodiversity conservation and for the well-being of human communities, thus fulfilling the full scope of the Convention text. Thereby justifying the increasingly common use of the short form of the treaty's title.

The Convention entered into force in 1975 and now has 158 Contracting Parties, or member states, in all parts of the world. Though the central Ramsar message is the need for the sustainable use of all wetlands, the "flagship" of the Convention of the List of Wetlands of International Importance (the "Ramsar List"). The List has 1,722 wetlands for special protection as "Ramsar Sites", covering 160 million hectares (1.60 million square kilometres), larger than the surface area of France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland combined.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) serves as Depositary for the Convention, but the Ramsar Convention is not part of the United Nations (UN) and UNESCO system of environment conventions and agreements. The Convention is responsible only to its COP, and its day-to-day administration has been entrusted to a secretariat under the authority of a Standing Committee elected by the COP

Click here to know Why do countries join the Ramsar Convention?
Membership in the Ramsar Convention:
entails an endorsement of the principles that the convention represents, facilitating the development at     national level of policies and actions, including legislation that helps nations to make the best possible use     of their wetland resources in their quest for sustainable development;
presents an opportunity for a country to make its voices heard in the principle inter governmental forum on     the conservation and wise use of wetlands;
brings increased publicity and prestige for the wetlands designated for the List of wetlands of international     importance, and hence increased possibility of support for conservation and wise use measures;
brings access to the latest information and advice on application of the Convention's internationally     accepted standards, such as criteria for identifying wetlands of international importance, guidelines on     application of the wise use concept and guidelines on management planning in wetlands;
brings access to expert advice and site-related problems of wetland conservation and management through     contacts with Ramsar personal and consultants and through application of the Ramsar Advisory Mission     mechanism when appropriate;
encourages international cooperation on wetland issues and brings the possibilities of support for wetland     projects, either through the convention's own small grants project funding mechanism or through the     conventions' contacts with multilateral and bilateral external support agencies.
How does the convention work?
The Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP) meets every three years and promotes policies and guidelines to further the application of the convention.
The Standing Committee, made up of parties representing the six Ramsar regions of the world, meets annually to guide the convention between meetings of the COP.
The Scientific and Technical Review Panel provides guidance on key issues for the convention.
The Ramsar Secretariat, which shares headquarters with the world conservation union (IUCN), in Gland, Switzerland, manages the day-to-day activities of the convention.
The MedWet Initiative, with its Secretariat in Athens, provides a model for regional wetland cooperation now being emulates by regional initiatives of the convention in many parts of the world.
Nationally, each contracting party designates an Administrative Authority as its focal point for implementation of the convention.
Countries are encouraged to establish National Wetland Committees, involving all government sectors dealing with water resources, development planning, protected areas, biodiversity, tourism, education, development assistance, etc. Participation by NGOs and civil society is also encouraged.
Ramsar sites facing problems in maintaining their ecological character can be placed by the country concerned on a special list, the "Montreux Record" and technical assistance to help solve the problems can be provided.
Eligible countries can apply to a Ramsar Small Grants Fund and Wetlands for the Future Fund for financial assistance to implement wetland conservation and wise use projects.

List of wetlands of International Importance under Ramsar Convention
1 Ashtamudi Wetland Kerala 61,400 ha Coastal-Natural-Lagoon It supports endangered plant species like zyzigium travencoricum which is listed in Red data book of Indian plants for endangered species and Calmus rotang an endemic endangered species. The wetland also supports 43 species of plants. The dominant mangrove species are Avicennia officinalis,Bruguiera gymnorrhiza and Sonneratia caseolaris. Avifauna includes 57 species of birds out of which 6 are of migratory and 51 resident species. Near-threatened species namely; darter (Anhinga melanogaster) and oriental white ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus) are recorded here. Wetland supports 97 species of fishes which include marine (42), estuarine-riverine (3) and (15) marine-estuarine. This wetland supports 21 recorded species of copepods. A number of bivalves are recorded here of which the dominant ones are Villorita cyprinoides, Katelysia opima,Paphia malabaricas,Meretrix meretrix and M. casta. 19-08-2002
2 Bhitarkanika Mangroves Orissa 65,000 ha Coastal-Natural-Mangrove Bhitarkanika mangroves are unique due to the presence of association of Rhizophora stylosa,Sonneratia griffithii and Heritiera littoralis Bhitarkanika is known for harbouring around 700 saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) distributed in the creeks and rivers.Water monitor lizard is common here which is otherwise rare in most parts of India. Five species of marine dolphins have been recorded here. The most common species encountered is Indo-pacific humpbacked dolphin. 19-08-2002
3 Bhoj Wetland Madhya Pradesh 3,201 ha Reservoir/Barrage Flora comprises 106 species of Macrophytes (belonging to 87 genera of 46 families), which includes 14 rare species.208 species of Phytoplankton and 105 species of zooplanktons, are observed in the wetland. Bhoj wetland supports vulnerable bird species namely; Pallas Fish eagle (Haliaectus leucoryphus)and Sarus crane (Grus antigone) besides the Black necked stork, a near threatened species. More than 20,000 birds have been observed annually. More than 100-120 Sarus cranes have been observed. Around43 species of fishes are found in the lake. 10 species of Reptiles and Amphibians have been recorded. 19-08-2002
4 Chandertal Wetland Himachal Pradesh 49 ha High Altitude Wetland Some 65% of the larger catchment is degraded forest due to overgrazing by the nomadic herdsmen, while 35% are covered by grasslands. It supports CITES and IUCN Red listed Snow Leopard and is a refuge for many species like Snow Cock, Chukor, Black Ring Stilt, Kestrel, Golden Eagle, Chough, Red Fox, Himalayan Ibex, and Blue Sheep. Some of the mammals encountered in the catchment area of Chandertal are Himalayan marmot (Marmota bobak),Royal's vole (Alticola roylei), Himalayan weasel (Mustela sibirica), Himalayan fox (Vulpes vulpes),Himalayn ibex (Capra sibirica hemalayanus). 08-11-2005
5 Chilika Lake Orissa 116,500 ha Lagoon Flora includes 22 species of algae and, 150 species of vascular plants in the lagoon. The dominant emergent plants are Pragmites karka,Typha angustata,Cyperus sp. and Kailinga triceps. Submerged vegetation is dominated by Enteromorpha sp.,Gracillaria sp.,Cladophora sp.,Polysiphonia sp.,Najas sp.,Chara sp.,Hydrilla sp. and Potomageton sp. Nearly, 225 bird species are recorded in the peak winter season. The lagoon hosts over one million migratory birds mainly ducks (Anatinae), Geese (Anserinae), Flamingos (Phoenicopterus sp.), Pelican (Pelecanus sp.), Plover (Charadrius sp.), Gulls (Larus sp.) and Terns (Sterna sp.). The lake shelters the largest population (158) of endangered Irrawaddy dolphin. The lake supports around 268.5 species of fishes, 35 species of crabs and 29 species of shrimp and prawns. 01-10-1981
6 Deepor Beel Assam 4,000 ha Lake/Pond A large variety of tropical aquatic flora is found in the beel. The Giant Water Lily is a noteworthy species. A total of 18 genera of phytoplankton, 21 genera of zooplankton have been reported. Some globally threatened birds are supported, including Spotbilled Pelican (Pelicanus philippensis), Lesser and Greater Adjutant Stork (Leptoptilos javanicus and dubius), and Baer's Pochard (Aythya baeri). Altogether 150 bird species have been recorded, of which 62 species are waterfowl. It supports 50 fish species belonging to 19 families. 19-08-2002
7 East Calcutta Wetlands West Bengal 12,500 ha Waterlogged (man-made) The wetland provides about 150 tons of fresh vegetables daily The area harbours mammals like marsh mongoose and small Indian mongoose, palm civet and small Indian civet. More than 40 bird species comprising both local and migratory types are reported. Among these grebe, coot, darter, shag, cormorant, teals, egrets, jacanas, snipes,tern, eagle, sand piper, gulls, rails and kingfishers are significant 19-08-2002
8 Harike Lake Punjab 4,100 ha Reservoir/Barrage Besides the dominant Eichornia,extensive growth of Typha elephantina and Phragmites karka is observed along the margins of the lake. Amongst the tall grasses Saccharum spontaneum and S.bengalenses are the most common along the higher ground in the wetland area and Tamarix diocia is the sole woody plant truly adapted to aquatic condition. Large populations of scaup duck, falcated teal and the white-headed stiff-tailed duck are observed here which are rarely seen elsewhere within India The area having shallow, marshy tracts serve as perfect feeding and wading habitat for waterfowl and tree covered earthen mounds are ideal nesting sites. It supports rare, vulnerable and endangered faunal species which include the Testudine turtle and the smooth Indian otter, both of which are listed in the IUCN Red list of Threatened Animals. Apart from avifauna, 8.5 species of turtle and 26 species of fish have been recorded 23-03-1990
9 Hokera Wetland Jammu & Kashmir 1,375 ha Riverine Wetland In the southern part the marginal shallow water puddles are dominated by Typha, Phragmites,Eleocharis etc. Many species of Nymphoides are found in the open water,when the shallow water areas dry up during summer, the vegetation is replaced by ephemeral species like Batrachium trichophyllum etc. It supports a large number of waterfowls especially the white eyed pochard (Aythya nyroca) enlisted in the IUCN Red list (2004). It is the only site with remaining reedbeds of Kashmir and pathway of 68 waterfowl species like Large Egret, Great Crested Grebe, Little Cormorant, Common Shelduck,Tufted Duck coming from Siberia, China, Central Asia, and Northern Europe. Around 373, 000 water fowl were reported in 2001-02 08-11-2005
10 Kanjli Punjab 183 ha Reservoir/Barrage Kanjli wetland supports diverse aquatic flora besides mesophytes. The aquatic flora include Chara sp., Hydrilla sp., Vallesnaria sp., Potomageton sp., Nelumbo sp., Nymphea sp., Eichhornia crassipes,Cyperus sp., Trapa sp., Typha angustata and T. elephantine. The water comprises 34 species of zooplankton from Protozoa, Rotifera, Nematoda, Ostracada, Copepoda, Oligotheta, Cladocera. There are 15 species of recorded macro invertebrates and 17 species of fishes. Kanjli acts as a transitory stopover for migratory birds on their way to Harike besides supporting a large number of resident birds. Commonly observed migratory birds of Kanjli are various species of goose, white eyed pochard,wigeon, tufted pochard, common teal, large whistling teal, pintail,mallard and shovler 22-01-2002
11 Keoladeo National Park Rajasthan 2,873 ha Waterlogged (Man-made) Apart from the aquatic vegetation that florish during good monsoon years, the other vegetation is characteristic of semi-arid zone dominated by Acacia nilotica, Zyziphus mauritiana,Prosopis cineraria, Salvadora etc. The park supports more than 350 bird species. The park supports enormous congregations of migratory waterfowl in winter. More than 25 species of ducks and goose like coots, brahminy duck, mallard, gadwal, wigeon, shoveller, pintail duck, bar-headed goose, greylag goose and others are known to winter here annually. The park is the only wintering ground for the highly endangered Siberian crane. Other key fauna in the park are the Cheetal, Sambhar,blue bull, wild boar, golden jackel etc. 01-10-1981
12 Kolleru Lake Andhra Pradesh 90,100 ha,Lake(18019 ha), Aquaculture ponds (65490 ha) Lake/Pond Different native aquatic plants such as emergent, floating leaved, submerged and freefloating vegetation colonize Lake Kolleru The site is known to have about 160 species of birds. The lake supports more than 50,000 waterfowl which includes a variety of resident and migratory birds. The most abundant duck reported was the Garganey with upto 10,000 which was about 3.0 per cent of the population in South Asia.Around 63 species of fish including some endemic ones have been reported from the lake. It provides habitat for vulnerable Grey Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) 19-08-2002
13 Loktak Lake Manipur 26,600 ha Lake/Pond It is a large continuous mass of swamp composed of decaying vegetation of > 1.5 m thick. Zizania latifolia is one of the vegetation found only in this lake in India. The lake supports around 116 species of birds including 21 species of migratory waterfowl. Globaly threatened species like the Spot-billed Pelican and the Greater Spotted Eagle have been reported from the lake. Keibul Lamjao National Park, which is the last natural refuge of the endangered 'Sangai' or Manipur brow-antlered deer (Cervus eldi eldi)is situated in the southeastern shores of this lake. 23-03-1990
14 Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary Gujarat 12,000 ha Lake/Pond Emergent vegetation like Typha, Cyperus are found on the shoreline and in the islands. The area is home to 210 species of birds, with an average 174,128 individuals recorded there during the winter and 50,000 in the summer. It is an important stopover site within the Central Asia Flyway, with globally threatened species such as the critically endangered Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarius) and the vulnerable Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris) stopping over at the site during migration, while the vulnerable Sarus Crane (Grus antigone) takes refuge there during summer when other water bodies are dry. The wetland is also a lifeline for a satellite population of the endangered Indian Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur) which uses this area in the dry season. 24-09-2012
15 Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary Tamil Nadu 38,500 ha Coastal wetland complex Mangroves are dominated by Avicennia marina Some 257 species of birds have been recorded, 119 of them waterbirds, including the vulnerable species Spoonbill Sandpiper (Euryhorhynchus pygmaeus) and Grey Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) and some 30,000 Greater and Lesser Flamingos. The site serves as the breeding ground or nursery for many commercially important species of fish, as well as for prawns and crabs. 19-08-2002
16 Pong Dam Lake Himachal Pradesh 15,662 ha Reservoir/Barrage The reservoir peripheral land area has mixed perennial and deciduous pine forests on hills. Eucalyptus trees have also been grown in the area. The forest growth provides enough sustenance to the migratory birds. The tree species of the forest area are Acacia, Jamun, Shisham, Mango, Mulberry, Ficus, Kachanar, Amla and Prunus. A variety of shrubs, grasses and climbers have also been reported.[16] The reservoir seasonal water-level variation between the maximum water level and the minimum draw-down level does not permit growth of much emergent vegetation, but some amount of submerged vegetation has been noticed Around 220 avian species are recorded from this wetland belonging to 54 families. The reservoir is an important wintering ground for waterfowl mainly barheaded geese, northern lapwing, ruddy shelduck,common teal, mallard and coot. Concentration of wintering waterfowl is as high as 75,000. More than 30, 000 Bar-headed Gees have been reported during peak season, which is around 33 per cent of the known population. The red necked grebe has been recorded from this wetland for the first time, which attaches national as well as international importance for the conservation of several waterfowls.The black headed gull, great black headed gull and herring gull species which are uncommon from coast in India, but visit this wetland in each winter. The reservoir is a rich source of fish. Fish diversity comprises of 25 species belonging to 6 families. Golden masher,Snow trout and Labeo dero are some of the indigenous fish of the lake 19-08-2002
17 Renuka Wetland Himachal Pradesh 20 ha Lake/Pond The lake has grasslands, marshy area, rocky area and open-water that form different habitats for flora and fauna. Nineteen species of fishes are reported from this wetland. Avifauna includes 103 species out of which 66 are resident and rest are migratory in nature. 08-11-2005
18 Ropar Punjab 1,365 ha Reservoir/Barrage A total of 19 species of trees and 14 species of bushes and grasses are recorded. Of these, the tree species are 1) Acacia catechu, 2) Ameles modesta, 3)Acacia nilotica, 4) Albizzia lebbek 5) Azadirachta indica, 6)Bombax ceiba, 7) Cassia fistula, 8) Dalbergia sissoo 9) Eucalyptus tereticornis, 10) Ficus benghalensis, 11)Ficus religiosa, 12) Mangifera indica, 13)Melia azedarach, 14) Moringa oleifera, 15) Morus indica, 16) Prosopis juliflora, 17) Salix willow, 18)Syzygium cumini (Jambul) and 19) Zizyphus jujuba. Around 154 species of birds have been recorded. It is an important staging ground for a number of migratory birds. It provides habitat to the endangered turtle Chitra indica and threatened snake Python molurus. It is also an important breeding site for the globally vulnerable otter Lutrogale perspicillata and "at lower risk" mammals such as deer Axis porcinus and Indian pangolin. The nationally protected deer Cervus unicolor also breeds here 22-01-2002
19 Rudrasagar Lake Tripura 240 ha Waterlogged (Natural) The lake support diverse aquaticvegetation. The wetland is a unique habitat for certain fishes. It comprises of six rare species namely; Botia sp., Cyclinia sp., Kachuga sp., Macrobrachium sp., Notopterus chitala, Oxygstus sp.and nine endangeredspecies namely; Channa marulius, Cirrhinus reba, Labeo bata, Macrobrachium rosenbergii, M. rude, Mystus aor, M. gulio, Notopterus chitala and Ompak paba. The wetland supports IUCN Red listedendangered Three-striped Roof turtle (Kachuga dhongka) 08-11-2005
20 Sambhar Lake Rajasthan 24,000 ha Lake/Pond The vegetation present in the catchment area in mostly xerophytic type. Shorelinevegetation includes the halophytes Suaeda fruticosa, Solsola baryosma and Cressa cretica. The most dominant algae in Sambhar Lake and the salt pans are Dunaliella salina,Chlmydomonas sp.,Anabaena sp. Some of the common birds recorded are: lesser flamingo, greater flamingo, tufted duck, pochard,white pelican, brown-headed gull, black-headed gull, herring gull, redshank, greenshank, commonsandpiper, blackwinged stilt, pintail, shoveler, dabchick, purple moorhen, demoiselle crane, large Indian pratincole, and avocet. The greater and lesser flamingos are regular visitors. Sambhar Lake assumes its importance for harbouring large number of flamingos, next only to Rann of Kuctchch in the country. 23-03-1990
21 Sasthamkotta Lake Kerala 373 ha Lake/Pond Conspicuously, the wetland is devoid of aquatic flora.Phytoplankton is scarce. It supports critically endangered and vulnerable fish species. It supports 28.5 species of fish that depend for food, spawning and nursery.The most common fish in the lake is Callichrous bimaculatus and Wallago attu. Bonnet monkeys frequent the banks. Notable migratory birds are teals 19-08-2002
22 Surinsar-Mansar Lakes Jammu & Kashmir 350 Ha Lake/Pond These lakes show growth of macrophytes in terms of floating, submerged and emergent types.The phytoplankton consists of 208.5 species while the zooplankton comprises of 54 taxa. The lakes support two important species of turtles, viz: the Indian Flapshell Turtle and the Indian Soft-shell Turtle listed in IUCN Red List category. The Mansar lake also supports a very rare medusa. Thelakes are rich in fish diversity. These lakes attract a migratory waterfowl e.g. Fulica atra, Gallinula chloropus, Podiceps nigricollis, P. cristatus, Aythya fuligula and A. ferina. 08-11-2005
23 Tsomoriri Jammu & Kashmir 12,000 ha High Altitude Wetland While the deeper parts of the lake have no vegetation, the shallow areas are reported to have Potamogeton sps. Marshes have several species of sedges and reeds, particularly Carex, Caragana and Astragalus sps., which are all representative of the surrounding arid steppe vegetation. Details of the Vegetation recorded in the area comprises the following:Characteristic Caragana and Astragalus species Potamogeton species. Several species of Carex, Primula (low growing herb),and Pedicularis(parasitic plant).Common species of Juncus thomsonii and Leontopodium sp Phytoplankton species of Oocystis with density was 900 cells/L to a depth of 25 m (82 ft). Specimens of the diatom Cyclotella also recorded.Pastures for domestic livestock The lake has the best known breeding ground of Bar-headed goose in Indian territory.During Autumn migration, the lake serves as an important staging area for variety of water fowl, including the Near Threatened Ferrugunious Pochard. The catchment supports large ungulates like the great Tibetan sheep (Vulnerable) and Tibetan wild ass - Equus kiang (Data Deficient) both endemic to the Tibetan plateau plus possibly a third, the Tibetan gazelle - Procapra picticaudata(Threatened). Also included are a number of smaller herbivore species endemic to the region: one species of vole (Alticola roylei), three species of mouse hares,Ochotona macrotis, O.curzoniae, O.ladacensis, one species of hare (Lepus oistolus) and one species of marmot (Marmota himalayana). 19-08-2002
24 Upper Ganga River-Brijghat to Narora Stretch Uttar pradesh 26,590 ha River/Stream Major plant species, some of which have high medicinal values, include Dalbergia sissoo, Saraca indica, Eucalyptus globulus, Ficus bengalensis, Dendrocalamus strictus, Tectona grandis, Azadirachta indica and aquatic Eichhorina. This stretch of the Ganga supports Ganges river dolphins (Platanista gangetica) listed in CITES,IUCN Redbook as endangered, common otters (Lutra lutra), two species of crocodiles i.e.endangered Gavialis gangeticus and Crocodylus palustris. Out of 12 species of turtle indentified from this stretch, 6 are considered as endangered including Indian softshell turtle (Aspideretes gangeticus). Avifauna includes more than 100 species. Fish form the largest group of living natural resources of this stretch of the river. Fishes like Wallago attu, Chela laubuca, Colisa fasciatus,Chandra ranga, Glossogobius giuris, Nangra punctata, Puntius sp.,and P. sophore are common in the river 08-11-2005
25 Vembanad-Kol Wetland Kerala 151,250 ha Lagoon Vembanad one of the largest wetland systems, comprising lake, paddy fields, marches, canals, palm groves,Possess all attributes of wetlands - mangroves. Has rich plant diversity - wetland flora - mangroves (8.5 species), mangrove associates and other aquatic species numbering about 180species. Avifauna includes 149 species. More than 36,000 birds mainly waterbirds and raptors have beenrecorded. Many species of birds are much above their 1% of Bio-geographic population threshold viz:Little Coromorants, Garganeys, the Indian Wishkered Tern. The lake is also famous for its fish fauna.Around 58 species of fish including many commercial fish are reported from the lake. 19-08-2002
26 Wular Lake Jammu & Kashmir 18,900 ha Lake/Pond The largest freshwater lake in India with extensive marshes of emergent and floating vegetation, particularly water chestnut, that provide an important source of revenue for the State Government and fodder for domestic livestock. The lake is a suitable wintering site for a number of migratory waterfowl species such as the commonteal, pintail, shoveller, common pochard, mallard and others.It is also an important habitat for fish,accounting for 60 per cent of the total fish production within the State of Jammu and Kashmir. 23-03-1990