New Delhi, India: India released a National Wetland Atlas to form the basis of a comprehensive wetland conservation strategy. The atlas includes satellite imagery-based maps. It categorises wetlands into 19 different classes. The maps are available at a 1:50,000 scale resolution.
The atlas is prepared by the Space Applications Centre (SAC) of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Ahmedabad. It was released by Shri Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State (Independent Charge), Environment and Forests, Government of India.
Wetlands, whether natural or man-made, coastal or inland, are of great ecological and economic significance in different states. However, wetlands today are under severe threat, they play a critical role in the water cycle, and are highly productive ecosystems that provide a wide range of ecosystem services, in addition to supporting significant recreational, social and cultural activities.
Excluding rivers, wetlands cover some 10 million hectares, or a little over 3 percent of the country’s geographical area. Of this 10 million hectares, reservoirs account for about 2.5 million hectares, inter-tidal mud flats for 2.4 million hectares, tanks for 1.3 million hectares, lakes/ponds for 0.7 million hectares, mangroves for some 0.47 million hectares and corals for about 0.14 million hectares. Yet, only 25 wetland sites in India are protected as Ramsar sites, under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (to which India is a signatory).
Jairam Ramesh said, “Wetlands are seriously threatened from various sources. Despite the ecological services wetlands provide and regulatory mechanisms consistent with the Ramsar Convention, we have so far lacked a detailed mapping and inventory of wetlands. This comprehensive mapping will help us prioritise wetlands for protection.”