Bhopal, Indore, Udaipur nominated for Ramsar Wetland city accreditation scheme

This is the first time Indian cities are nominated for the prestigious scheme

Ramsar Wetlands scheme Sarus cranes spotted at the Dhanauri wetlands | Sanjay Ahlawat

In a major recognition to the nature and lake conservation efforts of Madhya Pradesh, the union government has nominated Bhopal and Indore among the first three Indian cities for the prestigious Wetlands City Accreditation Scheme under the Ramsar Convention.

Union minister for environment, forests and climate change, Bhupender Yadav announced the nomination on social media platform X on Friday.

“Delighted to announce the nomination of India's first three cities – Indore, Bhopal, and Udaipur – submitted to Ramsar Convention for its prestigious voluntary Wetland City Accreditation scheme. The scheme aims to promote conservation and wise use of urban and peri-urban wetlands as well as sustainable socio-economic benefits for local populations. This will also provide an opportunity for cities that value their natural or human-made wetlands to gain international recognition and positive branding opportunities for their efforts in demonstrating strong positive relationships with wetlands,” Yadav said.

“This is another example of PM Narendra Modi ji’s commitment to conservation through community participation, and prosperity through conservation,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Ramsar Convention website says about the scheme: “The 172 Contracting Parties to the Convention have agreed to the conservation and wise use of wetlands in their territories. Recognizing the importance of cities and urban wetlands, the Convention has introduced a Wetland City accreditation scheme….The Wetland City Accreditation scheme will encourage cities in close proximity to and dependent on wetlands, especially Wetlands of International Importance, to highlight and strengthen a positive relationship with these valuable ecosystems, for example through increased public awareness of wetlands and participation in municipal planning and decision-making…”

Overall, 43 cities in the world are accredited as wetlands cities under Ramsar Convention. Of these 18 were accredited in 2018 and 25 in 2022. However, India is yet to make it to the prestigious list.

Bhopal and Indore water bodies

Bhopal is called the city of lakes for its numerous water bodies. The most important among them is the ‘Bhoj Wetland’– comprising the Upper Lake and the Lower Lake, which was declared a ‘Ramsar Site’ in 2002. A Ramsar site is a wetland site designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, an international environmental treaty signed on 2 February 1971 in Ramsar, Iran.

The Upper Lake is a manmade lake created in the 11th century by the construction of an earthen dam across the Kolans River, and the Lower Lake was constructed nearly 200 years ago, largely from the overflow of water from the Upper Lake. With a catchment area spanning 361 sq kms spanning Bhopal and Sehore districts, the Upper Lake is surrounded by Van Vihar National Park on the south, human settlements on the east and north, and agriculture fields on the west. The huge lake is a major source of potable water for Bhopal and is very rich in biodiversity, particularly resident and migratory birds, macrophytes, phytoplankton, zooplankton, both natural and cultured fish species, insects, reptiles and amphibians. The lake got the international tag owing to its biodiversity and for being a habitat of the endangered Sarus crane.

Indore – the cleanest city in India – is home to the Sirpur Lake – an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) of the country as declared by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) in 2017. The lake, once abandoned and dying, saw an incredible revival through a collaboration of government agencies and city environmentalists. Spread across 260 hectares, the lake is home for over 130 species of endangered birds including seven near threatened species like Ferruginous Pochard. Overall, it is a home of over 20,000 water birds.

It is felt that if the nominated cities get accredited, it will lead to better conservation efforts of the water bodies, promotion of eco-tourism, stopping of commercial activities such as cruising and boating in the lakes and water bodies, priority in international urban development and environment related projects and commitment of the municipal bodies to keep these water bodies pollution free.

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