India designates two new Ramsar sites in Punjab
The Bureau of the Convention on Wetlands is delighted to announce that the Government of India has designated two new Ramsar sites in Punjab state, effective 22 January 2002, the first instalments in quite a large package of new designations prepared with the support of WWF's Living Waters Programme. Eleven more of these have already been received at the secretariat and are presently being worked on by Bureau staff, and it is understood that as many as 25 may be added to the List in total. India now has eight Wetlands of International Importance, totaling 194,521 hectares in area.
Kanjli (183 ha, 31°25'N 075°22'E) comprises a permanent stream, the Kali Bein, converted by construction of a small barrage in 1870 into a water storage area for irrigation purposes. The site fulfils Criteria 3 because of its importance in supporting a considerable diversity of aquatic, mesophytic, and terrestrial flora and fauna in the biogeographical region, and acts also as a key regulator of groundwater discharge and recharge with the seasons. By this means and by direct abstraction of water for irrigation by the local population, the site plays a crucial role in the agriculture which predominates on the surrounding fertile plain, with fewer pressures upon water supplies than elsewhere in the Punjab. The invasive water hyacinth is present and must be removed from time to time; increasing pollution levels, deforestation in the catchment area, and excessive grazing are seen as potential threats. The stream is considered to be the most significant in the state from the religious point of view, as it is associated with the first guru of the Sikhs, Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The stream itself and surrounding marsh is under provincial ownership and surrounding areas privately owned. The site is a center for environmental tourism and picnicking. Ramsar site no. 1160.
Ropar (1,365 ha, 31°01'N 076°30'E), a National Wetland, is a humanmade wetland of lake and river formed by the 1952 construction of a barrage for diversion of water from the Sutlej River for drinking and irrigation supplies. The site is an important breeding place for the nationally protected Smooth Indian Otter, Hog Deer, Sambar, and several reptiles, and the endangered Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) is thought to be present. Some 35 species of fish play an important role in the food chain, and about 150 species of local and migratory birds are supported. Local fisheries are economically significant, and wheat, rice, sugar cane, and sorghum are cultivated in the surrounding area. Deforested local hills leading to siltation, and increasing industrialization causing an inflow of pollutants, are potential threats, and invasive weeds are a further cause for concern. Nature lovers, birdwatchers, swimmers and boaters visit the site in considerable numbers. Ramsar site no. 1161.