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Introduction
Home » Wildlife » Wetlands
 
Wetlands constitute the vital link in the hydrological cycle. They provide a multitude of services like purification and regulation of flows, fisheries, habitat provision to plants, animals and micro-organisms; providing opportunities for recreation and tourism; and so forth (Silvis, 2000). Their intrinsic hydrological functions act as buffer against such extremes as droughts and flooding.
wetlands
In monsoon, wetlands absorb and restore water and therefore, reduce the risk of flood. In winter and summer, they gradually release water and thus ensure its availability to surrounding and downstream areas.
Inland wetlands are important water resources replenishing groundwater and sub-soil aquifers. Coastal wetlands, including mangroves and coral reefs, often function as natural barriers against salt-water intrusion, protecting coastal land and inland water habitats.
Wetlands are source of life. Much of the world's biodiversity depends upon, or is linked to them. This includes many endangered and/or migratory species. Richness of waterfowl, including that of migratory ones in Gujarat is attributed to varieties of wetland habitats. Wetlands are thus part of global network of water-dependent, cross boundary resources, whose constituents can not be managed in isolation. Global wetland area was estimated at about 7.5 to 7.8 million sq. km., however, this figure excludes many wetland types such as salt marshes, coastal flats, sea grass, meadows and reservoirs. India harbours about 5 % of global wetlands.
Jheels (lakes), Talav (ponds), dams, seasonal waterbodies, paddy fields, streams, marsh lands, coastline, mangroves, coral reefs, estuaries and large stretches of mudflats etc. contribute significantly to make this land beautiful. It would not be an exaggeration to state that Gujarat is "a land of Wetlands" in India. A study conducted by Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad in 1998 estimated wetland area in the country at about 75819 sq. km. Of this, Gujarat's contribution is about 27175 sq. km (36%).
Waterfowl concentration in Gujarat during winter is one of the highest in the country as the area falls on monitory route of the birds. Migratory birds from Europe and Asia pass through western part of the country to Indian plateau and they enjoy varied habitats in the state. Many stay in Gujarat for entire wintering season and some move to Decca plateau.
Again during their reverse migration in March and April, birds stay at wetlands for sometime before their departure from the country to their breeding grounds.
Area (sq. km) of wetlands in Gujarat
Wetlands India Gujarat
Inlands wetland 35589 2092
Coastal wetland 40230 25083
Total 75819 27175
Categories and areas of wetlands in Gujarat
Inland Wetlands Area (Sq.Km.) Coastal wetlands Area (Sq.Km.)
Natural lakes 154 Mangroves 1031
Water logged 289 Coral reefs 130
Reservoirs 1394 Mudflat 21954
Tanks/ponds 198 Salt pans 460
Others including -- Other 1587
Mars Wand 57    
Total 2092 Total 25162
The Gulf of Kutch, the Gulf of Chambray and the two Ranns cover vast area of coastal wetlands, making this part of the land incomparable. Total population of wintering waterfowl in these areas has not been estimated, but is expected to be in millions. Sometimes, just less than a million flamingos nest in the Great Rann during the season. Dr. Salim Ali estimated half a million Greater Flamingos in a nesting colony in known Flamingo City in the Great Rann of Kutch in 1945. About 70,000 lesser flamingos were estimated in a nesting colony in the Little Rann in August 1998. Nalsarovar alone supports about one to two hundred thousand waterbirds in winter. Over 40,000 waterbirds can be seen in Thol Lake in a day during peak wintering season. Kutch, a known district for wetlands, has numerous seasonal waterbodies. Sample survey and monitoring of four typical wetlands indicate that millions of water birds find suitable home in this area. The four wetlands in the Little Rann supported 82,000 waterbirds in winter of 1998, proving beyond doubt that large number of water birds visits this area. There are hundreds of such wetlands in Saurashtra and Kutch. Regionwise distribution of wetlands and their areas are given below.
Of 831 wetlands in the state, 438 are coastal and 393 are inland (including 231 small and big reservoirs). In Gujarat, the coastal and inland wetlands cover 92.3% and 7.7% of the total wetland area respectively. Gujarat State recognized geomorphological, floral and faunal values of important wetlands and constituted seven sanctuaries to preserve total area of 13052 sq. km.
Weatlands in different regions
Region No. of Wetland Area(Sq. Km.)
North Gujarat 159 107
Kutch 258 21772
Saurashtra 352 2598
South Gujarat 62 1698
Total 831 27175
Note: Wetlands smaller than 56 ha are not included in above table.
Protected Area covering Coastal Wetlands
1. Great Rann Wildlife Sanctuary
2. Wild Ass Sanctuary in Little Rann
3. Marine National Park & Sanctuary
Protected Areas in Inland Wetlands
4. Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary
5. Thol lake Bird Sanctuary
6. Porbandar Bird Sanctuary
7. Khijadia Bird Sanctuary
Chhari - Dhaudh, a natural wetland, covering about 60sqkm in Banni is a wonderful site proposed and accepted by the Government of India as a Ramsar site. This unique wetland deserves a high protection status.  
 
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