Wetlands are like kidneys. The wetlands work in the same way as kidneys to maintain water balance within our bodies. There are many questions that arise about what exactly wetlands are. They are located where? How do they work? What are they supposed to do?
According to the Ramsar Convention wetlands are “areas of marsh or water, whether artificial or natural, permanent and temporary, with water which is fresh. brackish or salty, including areas where marine water is not less than six meters at low tide”.
The Global Lakes and Wetlands Databank (GLWD) was developed by the World Wildlife Fund and the University of Kassel in Germany. It shows that approximately 7 percent of the earth’s surface is covered with wetlands.
Jammu & Kashmir (then an undivided country) had 3651 wetlands that covered about 3, 91.501 ha. 2240 of the 3651 wetlands have an area less than 2.25ha. There are four wetlands in the region, Surinsar- Mansar and Hokersar, Wular, and Tsomoriri (now in Ladakh), that have been designated under Ramsar Convention. In September 2019, 12 wetlands were identified by the Central government for precedent restoration in the next five years.
Wetlands are vital to the planet, but they have been destroyed due to pollution and encroachment. Wetlands are home to many animal and plant species. They clean the soil. As our kidneys clean our bodies, so wetlands clean our environment. They reduce flood impact but also improve the quality of water. They help to maintain water balance. Wetlands are unique ecosystems in which terrestrial and aquatic habitats mix. Wetlands provide habitats for many animal and plant species as well as recreational activities such hunting, fishing, hiking boating, photography, and so on.
According to research, there are many birds that are most commonly sighted in Kashmir’s wetlands. These include the Tufted Duck and Gadwall, Brahminy Duck and Garganey. There are 106 species of birds that live in these wetlands. 25 species of land birds also visit the wetlands every now and again, and many endangered species.
How do wetlands work?
They purify water by blocking surface runoff, processing and extracting organic wastes and retaining inorganic nutrients.
What is the purpose of wetlands?
In the past, people believed that wetlands were unproductive and should be avoided. These wetlands are not useless. They offer many benefits to the environment. Wetlands can also be called as “Biological Supermarkets” as they produce a variety of foods which attract different animal species. Wetlands offer us many research and educational opportunities. These are great places to relax and can be a great place for research.
Wetlands are one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet, even more so than coral reefs and rain forests. These wetlands must be protected and saved from becoming extinct. It is a cruel act to destroy, pollute or encroach on them. Protecting wetlands can help to protect our health by reducing flood damage, and preserving water quality. Wetlands are vital for hundreds of families and rich biodiversity. These facts have been ignored by government agencies, which has resulted in a decline in community support for conserving our lakes. The wetlands and fauna that we proudly claim to be found in the valley would disappear if the government and the community fail. Concern has been expressed by Kashmiris about the pollution and slow shrinking of water bodies in the valley. The first priority should be to reduce further pollution. This can be done by taking measures such as upgrading drainage and sewerage systems in catchment zones, removal of encroachments and relocation of the affected people.
(The author is a nursing student at Arsh Institute of Health Sciences & Technology khanmoh Srinagar).