Basics –

  • Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year.
  • Wetlands experience periodic flooding from adjacent deepwater habitats
  • Wetlands are considered amongst the most productive ecosystems in the world
  • Wetlands include
  • Marshes or swamps where water gets stagnated due to poor drainage or relatively impervious substrata
  • Flood plains – areas lying adjacent to river channels beyond the natural levees and periodically flooded during high discharge in the river
  • Mangroves
  • Littorals – marginal areas between highest and lowest water level of the lakes
  • Peat lands, Bogs and fens

Functions of Wetlands –

  • Biodiversity protection
  • support a great diversity of species, many of which are unique and rare
  • Water storage
  • water is stored in the soil or retained in the surface waters of lakes, marshes etc
  • Groundwater replenishment
  • part or the water filters into the ground and recharges underground aquifers (groundwater reservoirs)
  • Sediment retention
  • by slowing down the force of water, encouraging the deposing of sediments carried in the water
  • High biological productivity – nutrients are often associated with sediments and can be deposited at the same time
  • Retention of nutrients
  • wetland species effectively remove nitrogen and phosphorous from agricultural and industrial discharges
  • leads to prevention of eutrophication further downstream
  • Storehouse (sinks) of carbon
  • Wetlands act as significant carbon sinks – the destruction of wetlands will release carbon dioxide
  • Source of livelihood to local people
  • cattle graze on some types of wetland vegetation which may also be used as an addition to forage, etc
  • Buffer shorelines against erosion
  • Aesthetic and educational value, support for tourism

Causes of destruction –

  • Conversion of wetlands for agriculture
  • Removal of sand from beds
  • Climate change
  • Deforestation
  • Habitat destruction
  • Aqua Culture
  • Pollution
  • Domestic waste
  • Industrial effluents
  • Agricultural runoff

Loss of Wetland causes –

  • Increased flooding events
  • Decline in water quality
  • Loss of wildlife habitat

Ramsar Convention

About –

  • Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971)
  • Ramsar convention is an international treaty that provides the framework for conservation and sustainable use of wetlands
  • It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran, where the Convention was signed in 1971
  • It came into force on December 21, 1975
  • Objectives
  • Conservation of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation
  • Sustainable use of wetlands and all the services they provide, for the benefit of people and nature

Organization –

  • Headquarters: Ramsar Convention secretariat is located in Gland, Switzerland, shared with the IUCN.
  • Presently there are 169 contracting parties, up from 21 initial signatory nations in 1971
  • The state parties meet every three years as the conference of the contracting parties (COP)
  • There is a standing committee, a scientific review panel, and a secretariat
  • Contracting parties commit to work through national plans, policies and legislation management actions and public education
  • Ramsar Convention works closely with fire other organisations
  • Bird life International
  • International Union for conservation of nature (IUCN)
  • International water management institute (IWMI)
  • Wetlands international
  • WWF International

Importance of wetlands –

  • The term wetland includes
  • all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes
  • wet grasslands, peat lands oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats
  • coral reefs, mangroves and other coastal areas
  • all human-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans
  • Wetlands are among the most diverse and productive ecosystems.
  • Wetlands provide essential services such as
  • freshwater supply, food and building material, and biodiversity
  • flood control, groundwater recharge, and climate change mitigation
  • Issue –
  • Wetlands are degradation and converted to other uses
  • Wetlands should be restored and rehabilitated, whenever possible

Transboundary Ramsar Site –

  • “an ecologically coherent wetland extending across national borders”
  • No such site in India

Ramsar List –

  • It is the list of Wetlands of International Importance
  • The Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance now include 2208 (know as Ramsar Sites)
  • Each Contracting Party shall designate suitable wetlands within its territory for inclusion in a List of Wetlands of International Importance
  • Wetlands included in the list acquire a new status at the national level and are recognized by the international community as being of significant value
  • Criterions –
  • There are two groups and nine criterions to identify Wetlands of international importance
  • Group A of the Criteria
  • Sites containing representative, rare or unique wetland types
  • criteria 1 – contains a representative, rare or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland
  • Group B of the criteria

Sites of international importance for conserving biological diversity

  1. Criteria 2,3&4 based on species and ecological communities
  • supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities
  • supports populations of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity
  • supports plant and/or animal species at a critical stage in their cycles, or provides refuge during adverse conditions
  1. Criteria 5&6 based on water birds
  • regularly supports 20,000 or more water birds
  • regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of water bird
  1. Criteria 7&8 based on fish
  • supports significant proportion of indigenous fish
  • acts as important source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path
  1. Criteria 9 based on other taxa
  • regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of wetland-dependent

Montreux Record –

  • A record of Ramsar Sites where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring or are likely to occur
  • It is maintained as a part of Ramsar list
  • A wetland will be removed from the Montreux Record, when there is no longer a risk of change in the ecological character of the listed site.
  • Montreux sites in India
  • Sites on record
  • Keoladeo National Park, designated 01/10/81, Rajasthan, 2,873 ha, Montreux 04/07/90
  • Loktak Lake, designated 23/03/90, Manipur, 26,600 ha, Montreux Record 16/06/93
  • Chilka Lake, designated 01/10/81, 116,500 ha, Montreux record 16/06/93, removed 11/11/02

Facts –

  • February 2nd of every year is celebrated as world wetlands day.
  • The country with the highest number of Sites is the United Kingdom at 170
  • The country with the greatest area of listed wetlands is Bolivia, with over 140,000 km2
  • It is not associated with the United Nations system of multilateral environment agreements
  • It is not a legally blinding treaty.

Basel Convention

About –

  • Basel Convention on the Control of Trans boundary Movements of Hazardous wastes and their disposal
  • Basel convention, is an international treaty that was designed
  • to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations and to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs)
  • It does not, however, address the movement of radioactive waste

Objectives –

  • to minimize the amount and toxicity of waste generated
  • to ensure their environmentally management as closely as possible to the source of generation
  • to assist LDCs in environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate

Formation –

  • It came into force on 5 May 1992
  • 182 states and the European Union are parties to the convention
  • Haiti and the United States have signed the convention but not ratified it

A waste falls under the scope of the convention if –

  • It is within the category of wastes listed in Annex I of the convention and
  • It exhibits one of the hazardous characteristics contained in Annex III.
  • It is considered to be a hazardous waste under the laws of either the exporting country, the importing country, or any of the countries of transit

Bamako Convention

About –

  • Bamako convention on the ban on the import into Africa and the control of trans boundary movement and management of hazardous wastes within Africa
  • Bamako convention is a treaty of Africa nations prohibiting the import of any hazardous waste.

Adoption –

  • The convention was negotiated by twelve nations of the organisation of African Unity at Bamako, Mali in January, 1991
  • It came into force in 1998

Implementation –

  • Bamako convention uses a format and language similar to that of the Basel convention, but is much stronger in prohibiting all imports of hazardous waste
  • it does not make exceptions on radioactive material as has been made by the Basel convention

Facts –

  • Impetus for the Bamako convention arose from the failure of the Basel convention to prohibit trade of hazardous waste to less developed countries (LDCs)

World Heritage Site

About –

  • A world heritage site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as being of special cultural of physical significance.
  • It may be a building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, or mountain
  • World Heritage List
  • The list is maintained by the international world heritage programme administered by the UNESCO world heritage committee
  • UNESCO world heritage committee is composed of 21 UNESCO member states which are elected by the general assembly
  • The programme catalogues, names and conserves sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity

Formation –

  • This convention was adopted by the UNESCO on 16 November 1972
  • It was ratified on 17 December 1975
  • 191 states parties have ratified the convention
  • Only Liechtenstein , Nauru, Somalia, South Sudan, Timor-Leste, and Tuvalu are not Party to the Convention
  • As of July 2015, 1031 sites are listed: 802 cultural, 197 natural, and 32 mixed properties, in 163 states parties

Nominating Process –

Step 1: A country must first inventory its significant ethical and natural properties; the result is called the tentative list.

Step 2: Next, it can place properties selected from this list into a Nomination file.

Step 3: The Nomination file is evaluated by the International council on monuments and sites and the world conservation union

Step 4: These bodies then make their recommendations to the world heritage committee

Step 5: The committee meets once per year to determine whether or not to inscribe each nominated property on the world heritage list

Selection Criteria –

There are 10 criteria to nominate a world heritage site.

  • Nominated sites must be of “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one of the ten criteria
  1. “represents a masterpiece of human creative genius and cultural significance”
  2. “exhibits an important interchange of human values, over a span of time, or within a cultural area of the world, on
  • developments in architecture or technology
  • Monumental arts
  • town-planning, or landscape design”
  1. to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared
  2. is an outstanding example of a type building architecture or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history
  3. is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement land-use or sea-use which is representative of a culture, or human interaction with the environment
  4. is directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions with ideas or with beliefs with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance
  5. contains superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance
  6. is an outstanding example representing major stages of Earth’s history, including
  • The record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or
  • significant geomorphic or physiographic features
  1. is an outstanding example representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes –
  • in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems
  • in the evolution and development of communities of plants and animals
  1. contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity

Facts –

  • Countries with greatest number of world heritage sites
  1. Italy (51)
  2. China(48)
  3. Spain(44)
  4. France(41)
  5. Germany(40)
  6. Mexico(33)
  7. India(32)
  • World Heritage committee has divide the world into five geographic zones which it calls regions : Africa, Arab states, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America, and Latin America and the Caribbean
  • The first list of world heritage sites was published in 1978
  • world heritage in Danger in India
  • Group of monuments at Hampi, Bellary district, Karnataka
  • Territorial division

Brown: nations with 40 or more heritage sites

Light brown: nations with 30 to 39 heritage sites India belongs to this division with 32 sites

Orange: nations with 20 to 29 heritage sites

Blue: nations with 15 to 19 heritage sites

Green: nations with 10 t 14 heritage sites

Rotterdam Convention

About –

  • Rotterdam convention on the prior informed consent procedure for certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade
  • Rotterdam convention is a multilateral treaty to promote shared responsibilities in relation to important of hazardous chemicals
  • The convention promotes open exchange of information and
  • calls on exporters of hazardous chemicals to use proper labelling, directions on inform purchasers of any known restrictions or bans
  • Signatory nations can decide whether to allow or ban the importation of chemicals listed n the treaty

Adoption –

  • It was adopted in 1998 by a conference of Plenipotentiaries in Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • It entered into force on 24 February 2004

Implementation –

  • The convention covers pesticides and industries chemicals banned for the health or environment concerns
  • Annex III chemicals
  • A total of 43 chemicals have been listed in Annex III
  • It includes 32 pesticides and 11 industrial chemicals

Facts –

  • The sixth meeting of the Rotterdam conference was held from 28 April to 10 May 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland

United Nations Environment Programme

About –

  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is an agency of the United Nations
  • It coordinates its environment activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices
  • It was founded by Maurice strong, its first director, as a result of the United Nations conference on the Human Environment in June 1972
  • It has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya and six regional offices and various country offices

Functions –

  • Its activities cover a wide range of issues regarding the atmosphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, environmental governance and green economy.
  • It has played a significant role in developing international environment conventions
  • UNEP has also been active if funding and implementing environment related development projects
  • Main activities
  • climate change
  • environment governance
  • ecosystem management
  • disasters and conflicts
  • harmful substances and
  • resources efficiency

Facts –

  • The world meteorological organization and UNEP established the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) in 1988
  • UNEP is also one of several implementing agencies for the global environment facility (GEF) and the multilateral fund for the implementation of the Montreal Protocol

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Background –

  • UNFCCC is an international environment treaty negotiated at the United Nations conference on environment and development (UNCED)
  • UNCED is informally known as the Earth Summit which held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992
  • The UNFCCC was adopted on 9 May 1992, and it entered into force on 21 May 1994
  • Objective –
  • To stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system
  • It is legally non-blinding treaty
  • The treaty provides a framework for negotiating specific international treaties (called “protocols”) that may set blinding limits on greenhouse gases
  • The work under the UNFCCC is facilitated by a secretariat in Bonn, Germany
  • Classification of Parties –

Annex I –

  • There are 43 parties to the UNFCCC listed in Annex I of the convention
  • These parties are classified as industrialized countries and “economies in transition (EITs)

Annex II –

  • These are 24 parties to the UNFCCC listed in Annex II of the convention
  • These parties are made up of members of the organization for economic cooperation and development (OECD)

Annex B –

  • Parties listed in Annex B of the Kyoto Protocol are Annex I Parties with first or second round Kyoto greenhouse gas emissions targets
  • Least development countries (LDCs)
  • 49 parties are LDCs, and are given special status under the treaty in view of their limited capacity to adapt to the effects of climate change
  • Non-Annex I
  • Parties to the UNFCCC not listed in Annex I of the convention are mostly low-income developing countries.
  • Conference of Parties (COPs) –
  • After the signing the UNFCCC treaty, parties to the UNFCCC have met at conference to discuss how to achieve the treaty’s aims
  • the parties to the convention have met annually from 1995 in conference of the parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change

Kyoto Protocol–

  • In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was concluded in Kyoto, Japan
  • It established legally blinding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions binding under international law.
  • The Kyoto Protocol has had two commitment periods –
  1. the first of which lasts from 2005-2012 and
  2. the second from 2012 till 2020
  • The protocol defines three “flexibility mechanisms” that can be used by Annex I parties in meeting their emission limitation commitments.
  • Flexibility mechanisms –
  • International emissions trading (IET)
  • allows parties to the Kyoto protocol to buy Kyoto units(emission permits for greenhouse gas) from other countries to help meet their domestic emission reduction target
  • Clean development mechanisms (CDM)
  • Through the CDM countries can meet their domestic reduction targets by buying greenhouse gas reduction units from non Annex I countries to the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Non-Annex I countries have no GHG emission restrictions, but have financial incentive to develop GHG emission reduction projects to receive certified emission reductions that can then be sold to Annex I countries
  • Joint Implementation (JI)
  • through the joint implementation any Annex I country can invest in emission reduction projects in any other Annex I country as an alternative to reducing emissions domestically

Bali Action Plan –

  • 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference took place at the Bali International Conference Centre, Nusa Dua, in Bali, Indonesia, between December 3 and December 15, 2007
  • The participating nations adopted the Bali Road Map as a two-year process to finalizing a binding agreement in 2009 in Copenhagen
  • As part of the Bali Action Plan, adopted in 2007, all developed country parties agreed to quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives
  • Developing country parties agreed to “Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions(NAMAs) in the context of sustainable development

Copenhagen and Cancun –

  • As part of the 2009 Copenhagen negotiations, a number of countries produced the Copenhagen Accord
  • The Accord states that global warming should be limited to below 2.0 C (3.6 F)
  • Many aspects of the Copenhagen accord were brought into the formal UNFCCC process as part of the Cancun agreements
  • The Cancun agreement states that global warming should be limited to below 2.0 V (3.6 F) relative to the pre-industrial level

Durban and Doha –

  • In 2011, parties adopted the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action”
  • As part of the Durban platform, parties have agreed to develop a protocol another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the convention applicable to all parties
  • This new treaty is due to be adopted at the 21st COP, and implemented in 2020 the 21st COP is scheduled to held in 2015

Facts –

  • The US has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by all the other Annex I Parties
  • Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in 2012
  • The 2010 Cancun agreements state that future global warming should be limited to below 2.0 C relative to the pre-industrial level
  • The 20th COP took place in Peru in 2014