Did You Know About The Wetlands In Kolkata That Is A Ramsar Site?

Discover a side of Kolkata most people do not know about. A Ramsar site with a network of water bodies, paddy farms, and marshlands right in the middle of a metro city
A farmer is seen carrying a pile of green leafy vegetables on bicycle in East Kolkata Wetlands
A farmer is seen carrying a pile of green leafy vegetables on bicycle in East Kolkata WetlandsShutterstock

India is home to wetlands which are also Ramsar sites. Not many people know that Kolkata also has a wetland—the East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW). Designated as a Ramsar site in 2002, it is located on the eastern outskirts of Kolkata, with Salt Lake township on one side and the new Rajarhat township on the other. It covers an area of 12,500 hectares with rich foliage and tranquil water bodies.

What's Special About It?

The EKW is considered to be unique, as it is responsible for the world's largest wastewater-fed aquaculture system. Most people do not know about this hidden gem, which has a network of water bodies, paddy farms, and marshlands in the middle of a metro city. The best way to explore it is by signing up for a tour to see the farms and fishing communities, palm-fringed paths, and fishing huts on stilts.

Good For The Environment

According to the Ramsar Convention, it is "one of only two natural resources of wastewater treatment areas in the world" (the other is in Uganda). These wetlands are also known as the "kidneys of the city" because they naturally filter out the city's effluent.

The EKW is not just a potential carbon sink with climate benefits for Kolkata, the area is also home to a diverse range of birds and animals. If you are interested in birding, check out a documentation of species here. And a pictorial guide to mammals, amphibians, and reptiles of EKW here.

Fishing huts on stilts in the EKW
Fishing huts on stilts in the EKWSuprabhat/Shutterstock

Exploring East Kolkata Wetlands

Several organisations host walking and cycling tours in the area. Here is a look at some of them.

A Bicycle Tour With Calcutta Walks

The original walking and special interest tours operator of Kolkata hosts a cycling tour of the wetlands. More details here.

Take a leisurely trail through the EKW
Take a leisurely trail through the EKW @cycle_the_kolkata_wetlands/Instagram

Cycle & Walk - The East Kolkata Wetlands

Set off at the crack of dawn for guided walking or cycling tours by experts who will help you explore the ecosystem of the wetlands. The two-hour walk through the lush green area is truly memorable. More details here and here.

What Is A Ramsar Site?

A Ramsar site, named after the Iranian city where the convention was signed in 1971, signifies a designated wetland area of international importance. These sites, under the Ramsar Convention's protection, are essential for biodiversity, water purification, and flood control. The treaty, overseen by UNESCO, aims to conserve these ecosystems and sustain their critical ecological functions. With over 2,400 sites globally, Ramsar sites serve as vital habitats for diverse species while recognising the significance of wetlands in maintaining the balance of nature. The agreement reflects a commitment to safeguard these precious environments for current and future generations.

Getting There

To reach the Eastern Wetlands in Kolkata, take public transportation like a taxi or bus to the Salt Lake area. Navigate towards Sector V and take the road leading to the East Kolkata Wetlands. You can access it by travelling along the EM Bypass or VIP Road. Alternatively, hire a local guide or use navigation apps for accurate directions. The wetlands cover areas like Patuli, Tangra, and Topsia.

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