The Rajasthan government, in collaboration with the Environment and Forest Department, is making concerted efforts to elevate Udaipur, also known as the ‘City of Lakes,’ to international prominence by aiming to become India’s first wetland city. According to recent reports, the city has been chosen as a potential Ramsar Convention site of International Importance, a recognition coveted by wetland-rich regions around the globe.
The Ramsar Convention and Udaipur’s Candidacy
The Ramsar Convention, officially known as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, is a global treaty designed to protect and sustainably utilize wetlands of international importance.
According to the Ramsar Convention, a wetland must meet specific criteria to be deemed of international importance. These criteria include containing a rare, representative, or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type within the appropriate biogeographic region and supporting vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities.
Udaipur’s Wetland Potential
Udaipur, with its striking natural beauty and ecological significance, is poised to fulfill all the requirements stipulated by the Ramsar Convention. Covering an area of 37 square kilometers, the city is graced by five major lakes – Pichola, Fateh Sagar, Rang Sagar, Swaroop Sagar, and Doodh Talai. These stunning bodies of water, collectively known as the ‘City of Lakes,’ have long been integral to Udaipur’s identity and culture. They are not only picturesque but also essential to the city’s ecology, supporting a diverse range of species and contributing to the region’s biodiversity.
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National Lake Conservation Plan and Udaipur’s Restoration
Further bolstering Udaipur’s quest to become a wetland city is its inclusion in the National Lake Conservation Plan (NLCP), a restoration project initiated by the central government of India. The NLCP focuses on rehabilitating and conserving significant lakes and wetlands across the country, ensuring their ecological health and sustainability. The lakes and wetlands of Udaipur, which are primarily managed by the tourism and local self-government departments, are crucial components of this plan.
Stakeholder Involvement and Future Plans
To propel Udaipur’s candidacy for the prestigious title of a wetland city, the state Environment and Forest Department is diligently working on sending a formal nomination to the Ramsar Convention. Monali Sen, Joint Secretary of the Environment and Climate Change Ministry, has announced plans for a one-day workshop, which will bring together district officials and representatives of local bodies to finalize the nomination draft. This inter-departmental meeting aims to incorporate suggestions from all stakeholders to ensure a comprehensive and robust submission.
A Rare Distinction in the Making
If Udaipur succeeds in its bid to become a wetland city under the Ramsar Convention, it will join a select group of cities around the world that have received this prestigious recognition. This title is a rare distinction, with only a handful of cities worldwide having earned the honor. Udaipur’s competition for this prestigious status is fierce, as Bhopal is also vying for the same recognition. These efforts underscore India’s commitment to preserving its wetland ecosystems and fostering sustainable environmental practices.
Global Wetland Cities
The Ramsar Convention has already recognized several cities across the globe as wetland cities. In 2022, during the Convention’s proceedings, 25 cities were acknowledged for their commitment to preserving wetlands of international importance. Some of these cities include Sackville in Canada, Cape Town in South Africa, Ifrane in Morocco, and others from various countries. Presently, there are 42 wetland cities situated across 17 nations around the world, with China boasting the highest number, with 13 such cities.