Wetlands and People

22 Jan, 2022

Connecting people and wetlands in development cooperation

By: Shambhavi Krishna, Junior Technical Expert, GIZ

On 2nd February 2022, World Wetlands Day would be celebrated globally, the 45th time since it was first observed, but the first time as a UN International Day. The theme for this year, ‘Wetlands Action for People and Nature’, is a call for action, an appeal to invest in saving the world’s wetlands from disappearing and restoring the degraded ecosystems.

Wetland conservation has been largely undervalued in development planning; a rather expensive omission given the role they play in delivering global commitments on climate change, sustainable development, biodiversity, and disaster risk reduction. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has analysed how wetland conservation can help support the Sustainable Development Goals. As wetland loss continues at an alarming rate, for communities directly dependent on wetlands, this translates into a loss of source of water, food, and fuel. To counter this, today, there are increasing efforts to engage the most crucial actors in wetland management – the communities dependent on them.

Stakeholder consultation at Renuka, Himachal Pradesh ©GIZ

As part of the integrated management planning for the project sites, the Wetlands Management for Biodiversity and Climate Protection' project is working towards a collaborative and integrated process. Guided by the National Plan for Aquatic Ecosystems, the project engages with a variety of stakeholders. A series of consultation workshops have been organised to present the outcomes of assessment studies carried out at each pilot site, including assessments on the livelihoods supported by those wetlands. As a crucial step of preparing the management plans, stakeholder consultations are now being organised to enable multi-stakeholder dialogues, to clarify the vital role of each group, including the communities, and create a shared vision to manage wetlands sustainably.

Many lost their livelihoods during the COVID-19 pandemic. With limited opportunities for earning income, there would have been an increased dependency on the already stressed natural resources. As a response, the project started implementing Green Recovery Measures in the pilot sites. The aim was to firstly, create avenues for income generation through conservation and ecosystem restoration and secondly, build necessary skills for alternative livelihoods. The latter are crucial in increasing resilience by reducing direct dependency on the wetland resource extraction.

Improving vegetable productivity through SCI (System of Crop Intensification), a Green Recovery measure being implemented at Bhitarkanika, Odisha ©APOWA

Stakeholder consultation at Point Calimere, Tamil Nadu ©DHAN foundation

At Bhitarkanika, the measures include providing support and guidance on backyard vegetable cultivation, freshwater aquaculture activities, de-weeding, pond renovation and mangrove rehabilitation. The bunds damaged due to cyclone Yaas are being re-strengthened and farmers are being mobilised towards rainwater harvesting.In Point Calimere, sustainable fishing practices, mangrove rehabilitation and backyard nutrition gardening are being supported. There is support for restoration of freshwater ponds and science-based floriculture.

At Pong dam lake, a training on homestay management has been conducted for the people from surrounding villages and is linked to the development of ecotourism in Pong. Another interesting tool is being explored under the project - participatory video making capturing the relationship of the communities with the wetland, its services, and its responses. The films would also serve as a remote monitoring tool for the green recovery measures while adding a new skill for selected community members.

Kitchen & Homestay operations trainings for community members from Pong Dam, Himachal Pradesh and Wular, J&K ©GIZ

The links of wetland and people go beyond the direct links of the communities living in and around the wetland. People all over are important players in sustaining these ecosystems, just as the wetlands are essential to their survival. As a bridge bringing people closer to wetlands the Wetlands of India Portal has been developed. It is a one-stop destination for all wetland related information that may be useful for wetland authorities and site managers, administrators, decision-makers, students, and citizens. The portal hosts an interactive map with wetlands profiles, resources like educational films, resource material for students, success stories of wetland champions and provides one the opportunity to register oneself as a wetland mitra (friend) and contribute towards wetland management.

The past few years have starkly brought forth the interdependencies of the human and natural world. Action for conservation, management and restoration of wetlands is crucial, now more than ever. As we move further into the UN decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) - the global last effort to halt and reverse the continuous degradation of the world’s ecosystems, including wetlands – we have an opportunity to put the world on track for a sustainable future. It may seem daunting, but decisive actions and collaborative efforts of all will go a long way in safeguarding our wetland ecosystems.

Adapted from media toolkit of www.worldwetlandsday.org

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