Wetland: Brief Introduction

            A wetland is an area or a place in which the land is covered by water i.e. salt water fresh, or somewhere in between either seasonally or permanently. In other words wetland is a marshy area or area covered with water whether naturally or artificially, temporarily or permanently, with flowing or static water. Wetlands vary widely due to regional and local differences in soils, topography, temperatures, climate, hydrology, water chemistry, vegetation and other factors, including human disturbance. The characteristic vegetation of aquatic plants is the primary factor which distinguishes a wetlands from terrestrial lands.Wetlands function as its own distinct ecosystem, in fact they are considered among the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems, which are home to a wide range of plant and animal species. A wide variety of species live in wetlands. Owing to the availability of water, fishes and the vegetation, wetlands attracts and acts as home to wide variety of fauna (including birds). Migratory birds use wetlands as pit stops during their long journey as they provide them with protection and food.

Importance of Wetlands

            Few years back, wetlands were regarded as wastelands and it was a common practice to reclaim the land by filling them up with soil. In recent past the importance of Wetlands to the environment and the local habitants in adjoining areas has been realised. Wetlands offers critical habitat to flora and fauna (especially to endangered species). They purify polluted water, help recharge the ground water, help check floods, etc. They also provide various opportunities to the inhabitants such as fishing, boating, tourism, photography and wildlife observation.

Ramsar Convention

            The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands or the Convention on Wetlands is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the convention was first adopted in 1971 and came into force in 1975. Since then every three years, representatives of the contracting parties of the convention meet as the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP), the policy-making organ of the convention. During this conference various policies are formulated and decisions are adopted.

Wetlands of Jammu and Kashmir

            The Jammu and Kashmir region is teeming with various types of freshwater bodies including rivers and lakes. The region has many wetlands of national and international importance. It has five wetlands of international importance, which have been designated as Ramsar sites.

Surinsar-Mansar Lakes   

Surinsar-Mansar Lakes is a twin lake system situated about 42 Kms from Jammu city. These are 9 Kms apart, these are fresh water composite lakes in Jhelum basin. While Surinsar is rain-fed without permanent discharge and Mansar is primarily fed by surface run-off and partially by mineralised water through paddy fields. The twin lake system was designated as Ramsar site on 8 November 2005.

Hokersar Lake       

Hokersar lake is situated in Zainakote, it is situated 10 Kms away from Srinagar. It is a perennial lake contiguous to Jhelum basin. It is home to approximately 68 species of birds like Large Egret, Great Crested Grebe, Little Cormorant, Common Shelduck, Tufted Duck, etc. Hokersar Lake was designated as Ramsar site on 8 November 2005

Wular Lake  

Wular Lake is the largest freshwater lake in India and second largest in Asia. The lake is situated on the foothills of Haramuk Mountain covering an area of approximately 200 square km (24 km length and 10 km breadth). The lake lies between the towns of Sopur and Bandipore, in Sangrama. Wular Lake is mainly fed by River Jhelum. Walur Lake also has a small island in its centre called the ‘Zaina Lank’, which was constructed by King Zainul-Abi-Din. It is said that Wular Lake is a remnant of Satisar Lake that existed in ancient times. Wular Lake was designated as Ramsar site on 23 March 1990.


Shallbugh Wetland lies west of Anchar Lake in the Sindh river delta. It is situated 18 km northeast of Srinagar city. This wetland is primarily fed by rainfall, snowmelt from the Kashmir Himalayas, and stream water flowing from the Sindh River and Anchar Lake. Many migratory birds visit the Shallabugh wetland especially during winters to include Geese, Bar Geese, White Heeled Duck, Shoveller,         Red-Crested Pochard, White-Eyed Pochard, Common Teal, Pintail, Mallard, etc. Shalbugh was designated as Ramsar site on 8 June 2022.


Haigam wetland lies downstream of Wular Lake. It is situated 30 kilometres from Srinagar in Baramulla District. Haigam wetland is located within the Jhelum river basin and plays an important role in flood control, aquifer recharge, and regulating water flow of the Wular Lake. The wetland lies on the Central Asian Flyway and over 40,000 migratory & resident bird species have been recorded annually. The wetland is also home fishes of all type available in Jammu and Kashmir. Haigam was designated as Ramsar site on 8 June 2022.

Significance of  Wetlands in Jammu and Kashmir

            The Jammu and Kashmir region is home to a chain of wetlands covering an area of ​​more than 7,000 hectares. These wetlands are very effective systems that help in the cycling of nutrients, act as defenders of food chains, maintenance of water quality and its cycle. These wetlands are directly linked to the livelihood requirements of the local population apart from their ecological, biodiversity, cultural and tourism values. Apart from being the primary habitat for hundreds of species of waterfowl, fish, mammals and insects, most of the wetlands in the region fall under Central Asian Flyway Zone and visited by lakhs of migratory & endangered birds during their annual migration march. Also these wetlands prevent floods by storing excess rain water. However the wetlands in the region are facing multi dimensional threats due to encroachment, pollution, siltation, urbanization, expansion of agricultural lands, etc . The wetlands in the Jammu and Kashmir region are suffering from impacts of unplanned development and inefficient policies.

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