CHANDIGARH: A predominantly agrarian state, Punjab now boasts of having six wetlands designated as Ramsar sites. Of these six, the Beas will be the first river in the country to be included in the list.
A Ramsar Site is a wetland designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention — an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
In the age of global warming, six such sites in the state will come as good news for environmentalists.
Earlier, Punjab had three wetlands designated as Ramsar sites — Harike (notified in 1990), Ropar (2002) and Kanjli (2002). Now, three more — Keshopur, Nangal and Beas River — have been added to the list.
Chief Wildlife Warden, Punjab, Kuldeep Kumar said, “Out of 37 Ramsar sites declared in India, Punjab has six. Also, of the 10 sites declared recently three are in the state. Due to the state’s rich biodiversity, so many sites have made it to this intentional list. In future, we will work on two more sites so that they can find a place too.’’
Besides Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir has four such sites and Himachal Pradesh and Kerela three each. In 2017, Beas became the first river in the country to be declared as a conservation reserve.
In 2019, the state wildlife board decided to declare the river — which spreads across 168 km with a 100-metre buffer zone on each side — as a ‘Heritage River’ and is home to the Indus dolphins, one of the most endangered mammalian species in the world.
Also in 2018 gharial, which became extinct locally for more than 40 years, was re-introduced in the river.
There are nine criteria for being accepted as a Ramsar site, including that the site should support vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities. A wetland can also be considered for the tag if it regularly supports 1% individuals of a species or subspecies of water birds.
Nangal, which was declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 2003, and spreads over 116 hectares, attracts between 8,000 and 15,000 migratory birds every year of 134 species and 25 species of fish.
It also supports habitat for sambar and hog deer. The third to be included in the Ramsar list, Keshopur was declared a community reserve in 2007.