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Wetlands as ‘societal assets’: inclusive outlook essential for wetlands conservation

Wetlands International South Asia celebrated its Silver Jubilee year of inception on 29 September, 2022. Hon’ble Minster of State for External Affairs and Education Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh graced the occasion as the chief guest. Congratulating the organisation on achieving this epic milestone, Dr Singh praised the conservation efforts of Wetlands International South Asia. He emphasised that water security is central to lives and livelihoods of people and thus calls for the participatory role of the individuals beyond their societal realm. He informed that in its 75th year of independence, India designated 75 wetlands as Ramsar sites which is the largest network in Asia. He complimented the Ministry of Environment Forest and climate change for supporting state governments in implementing management plans for priority wetlands since 1986, covering more than 250 wetlands to date. Citing the example of Loktak wetland being revered as ‘Ima’ or mother to the people of Manipur, Dr Singh stated that our wetlands are also a unique cultural heritage.

Laying emphasis on wetlands as societal assets, Dr Ritesh Kumar-Director Wetlands International South Asia stressed upon decentralising wetland management augmenting interventions from regulatory to one enabling a participatory approach through dialogues and collaborative actions.

Dr Siddharth Kaul, President Wetlands International South Asia highlighted the 25 years journey of the organisation since its inception in 1996. Emphasising on the critical role of the wetland ecosystem he called for urgent scaling up of efforts on wetlands conservation and wise use. Dr Kaul said, to mark its Silver Jubilee year, the organisation held a number of activities on different environmental themes to highlight the efforts for conserving wetlands in South Asian region. The core group of young people was the focal point. The winners of different competitions were also awarded during the Silver Jubilee celebration.

Three publications highlighting the wetlands conservation were also released on the occasion. These included (i) Role of citizens (ii) Inspiring Echoes (iii) Wetlands Champions.

A panel discussion on ‘Wetlands conservation-challenges and prospects’ was also organised. The panellists included Mr Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO, WWF India, Prof R R Mishra, Special Technical Advisor, NIUA and Former DG National Mission on Clean Ganga, Dr Sara Ahmad, Founder Living Waters Museum and Member, Governing Body, Mr Pijush Sinha, Board Member, Avendus Finance Private Limited, and Member, Governing Body. Dr Ritesh Kumar-Director, Wetlands International South Asia moderated the discussion.

Wetlands International South Asia is a non-government organisation working for sustaining and restoring wetlands, their resources and biodiversity in South Asia region The New Delhi office of Wetlands International South Asia was established on June 13, 1996. Beginning with projects in two wetlands (Loktak in Manipur and Chilika in Odisha) the work now spans 11 Indian states, across Nepal, Bangladesh and Maldives. It is a part of Wetlands International network which has over 20 offices across the globe and has a presence in more than 100 countries. Wetlands international has its headquarters in Netherlands.

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