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Uttar Pradesh to promote wetlands as tourism, water sports hubs

Uttar Pradesh plans to promote major wetlands in the state as tourism, educational, recreation and water sports hubs
By Pankaj Jaiswal, Lucknow
PUBLISHED ON JUN 05, 2021 09:38 PM IST

Uttar Pradesh plans to promote major wetlands in the state as tourism, educational, recreation and water sports hubs. These include eight sites designated as wetlands of international importance (Ramsar Sites). UP has the maximum number of Ramsar sites among the 42 in India and Punjab, with six sites, is next to UP.

The eight wetlands of international importance in UP are: Upper Ganga river (Bulandshahr), Sarsai Nawar Jheel (Etawah), Saman Bird Sanctuary (Mainpuri), Sandi Bird Sanctuary (Hardoi), Samaspur Bird Sanctuary (Rae Bareli), Parvati Arga Bird Sanctuary (Gonda), Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary (Unnao), and Sur Sarovar (Agra).

“Due to the efforts of the forest and environment departments of UP, so many of our wetlands have been designated as wetlands of international importance. The first site to get this status was the Upper Ganga river in 2005 and till 2019 this was the only Ramsar site in UP. Six other sites got this status in 2019 while another one was added to the list in 2020,” said a senior officer of UP forest department.

“We are according these sites more importance than national parks as these are rich in biodiversity. The wetlands are home to many plants (terrestrial and aquatic) and animals (terrestrial, aquatic, amphibians, reptiles, birds, insects). The state government also plans to develop them as destinations for nature lovers and tourists,” he said.

The development plan includes the construction of roads for easy accessibility, boarding and lodging facilities, movement around the area, recreational activities like boating and water sports and online facilities, said a senior forest department official.

“The sites will be developed under the financial collaboration of the central and the state governments (the central government will bear 60% of the cost and the balance will be borne by the state government). Most of the project proposals have been sent to the central government,” said the official.

“It’s difficult to comment on the timeline for the project because of the interruptions due to the Covid pandemic. But these sites should be developed in a couple of years. Otherwise, most of the sites are still very attractive for tourists and nature lovers,” he added.

8 UP Wetlands of International Importance

Sur Sarovar, the latest one to be designated as a Ramsar site in UP, is also known as Keetham Lake. A man-made reservoir, originally created to supply water to Agra. With a rich eco-system, the wetland is a refuge for resident and migratory birds, and more than 60 species of fish. The site is important for bird species that migrate on the central Asian flyway, with over 30,000 water birds known to visit the reservoir annually.

Upper Ganga River (Brijghat to Narora Stretch) in Bulandshahr is a shallow river stretch of the Ganges with intermittent small stretches of deep-water pools. The river provides a habitat for Ganges River Dolphin, Gharial, Crocodile, six species of turtles, otters, 82 species of fish and over 100 species of birds. This river stretch holds importance for thousands of pilgrims and is used for holy dips for spiritual purification.

Sarsai Nawar Jheel is a permanent marsh in Etawah. It is an example of co-habitation of humans and wildlife. Farming practices play roles in sustaining the water bird habitats. Sarus Cranes flock to this region. The wetland is also a site of spiritual and religious significance with the nearby Hajari Mahadev temple visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.

Sandi Bird Sanctuary is a freshwater marsh in Hardoi. Rich in aquatic plants, the site provides a productive habitat for waterfowl with over 40,000 individuals counted in 2018. It is home to over 1% of the South Asian populations of common teal (Anas crecca), Red-Crested Pochard (Netta rufina) and Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca). The wetland is a popular recreational and tourism destination and supports farmers as a source of livestock fodder.

Samaspur Bird Sanctuary in Rae Bareli is a perennial lowland marsh. Annual counts regularly find more than 75,000 birds, with over 250 resident and migrant species. The sanctuary harbours threatened species such as the endangered Egyptian Vulture and Pallas’s Fish Eagle, and more than 1% of the South Asian population of the vulnerable Common Pochard. At least 46 freshwater fish species use the wetland.

Saman Bird Sanctuary in Mainpuri is a seasonal oxbow lake (U-shaped). It provides refuge to over 50,000 water birds (187 bird species have been recorded) and is particularly important as a wintering site for many migrants including the Greylag Goose, with over 1% of the South Asian population present during winter. Vulnerable species including Sarus Crane and Greater Spotted Eagle are also found here.

Parvati Arga Bird Sanctuary in Gonda is a combination of two oxbow lakes. It offers exceptional habitats for water birds, providing both roosting and breeding sites with over 1,00,000 birds documented in annual counts. The sanctuary is a refuge for some of India’s threatened vulture species: the critically endangered White Rumped Vulture and Indian Vulture, and the endangered Egyptian Vulture have all been recorded. Some ancient temples around the lakes are of religious significance and encourage tourism.

Nawabganj Bird Sanctuary in Unnao is a shallow marshland. Monsoon rains feed this diverse wetland while the Sharda Canal supplies additional water. The sanctuary supports recreation and tourism activities as well as local biodiversity. It is a haven for birds, with 25,000 water birds regularly recorded and 220 resident and migratory species documented. Among these are globally threatened species including the endangered Egyptian Vulture and Pallas’s Fish Eagle. Protection and afforestation measures have helped increase the overall diversity of wildlife, with golden jackal and jungle cat now present here.

WHAT ARE RAMSAR SITES?

A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar convention

The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

The Convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975. Since then, almost 90% of UN member states, from all the world’s geographic regions, have acceded to become “Contracting Parties”.

The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”. (Source: Ramsar website)

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