Wetland conservation for biodiversity and ecosystem services needs a shift in land and water resources policies

Wetlands are “places where water is the primary factor controlling plant and animal life and the wider environment” and provide a variety of important ecosystem functions such as recharging groundwater supplies and trapping floodwaters in addition to facilitating nutrient cycling and the production of rice and fish as staple food for more than half of the world’s human population. In India, about 38% of inland freshwater wetlands had been degraded or lost in recent decades—due to rapid urbanisation and lack of attention given to them in the development plans. The policy brief centres around the key message that conservation of wetlands with the objective of protecting their biodiversity, specific biophysical characteristics and obtaining optimum benefits (ecosystem goods and services) requires a major shift in policies related to land and water use. It also emphasises the need to assess and value in economic terms the ecosystem services from wetlands particularly addressing the benefits to the local community and their livelihoods.