Three more wetlands in Punjab have been declared as Ramsar sites by the Ramsar Bureau, Switzerland. A total of 10 new sites from India have been given the Ramsar tag, of which three are in Punjab, taking the total number of such sites to six in the state. Of three new Ramsar wetlands, Keshopur-Miani community reserve in Gurdaspur is natural, 185-km stretch of the Beasconservation reserve (upstream of barrage), & Nangal wildlife sanctuary spread in an area of 116 ha in Ropar, are man-made.The state already has three wetlands with Ramsar tags namely Harike, Kanjli and Ropar wetlands.
On February 2, the World Wetlands Day is celebrated globally. The theme of 2020 is Wetlands and Biodiversity to emphasize the critical roles the wetlands plays for wildlife, aquatic life, and native vegetation.
They also play crucial role in harvesting rainwater, recharging groundwater, providing livelihoods, acting as carbon sinks and providing cushion against flash floods thus they hold immense significance in changing climate.
1.Keshopur-Miani Community Reserve
- The Keshopur wetlands also known as Keshopur-Miani Community Reserve or ‘Chhamb’ in Punjabi, is one of the Asia’s biggest wetlands. It is located in Gurdaspur district right in the middle of the Ravi and Beas rivers.
- It is believed that the area must have been a flood plain of the two rivers before barrages and dams tamed their spirals. Now rain and groundwater feed the land.
- The 850-acre-marsh was home to over 25,000 migratory and native birds during last winter.
- Keshopur Chamb has been receiving a record number of migratory birds since 2011. A bird census conducted in 2016 pegged the number of avians of nearly 72 species, visiting the wetlands at 25,302. The number was 20,400 in 2015. Significantly, 2016’s arrival is six times of 2011 when the wetland saw only 4,500 birds. On the contrary Kanjli wetland has hardly seen migratory birds visiting it for the past many years due to its poor upkeep.
Beas Conservation Reserve
- The Beas Conservation Reserve is a 185-kilometre stretch of the Beas River located primarily in the north-west of the State of Punjab.
- The River meanders down from the Himalayan foothills to the Harike Headworks, where its course is diverted into a number of channels. The River is dotted with islands, sand bars and braided channels creating a complex environment supporting substantial biodiversity.
- More than 500 species of birds are documented along this stretch, along with more than 90 fish species.
- The Reserve also hosts the only known population in India of the endangered Indus river dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor).
- In 2017, a programme was initiated to re-introduce the critically endangered gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) with 47 individuals released into the River 30 years after their disappearance.
- Major threats include urban and domestic pollution as well as impacts of agriculture along most of the River’s course.
Nangal Conservation Reserve
- Located in the Shiwalik foothills of Punjab is the highly eco-sensitive Nangal Wildlife Sanctuary, which supports abundant flora and fauna including threatened species, such as the endangered Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) and Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and the vulnerable leopard (Panthera pardus).
- It occupies a human-made reservoir constructed as part of the Bhakra-Nangal Project in 1961.
- The site is of historic importance as the Indian and Chinese Prime Ministers formalized the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence” there in 1954.
- More than half a million people downstream benefit from the reservoir as the flow of water is regulated, reducing the risks to both people and property from floods.