In the climate milieu, peri-urban wetlands are facing the serious threats of habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, and deteriorating ecosystem services owing to anthropogenic pressure and rapidly changing microclimates. Although some of these wetlands are unique socio-ecological production landscapes and seascapes (SEPLS) that ensure the food, water, and livelihood security of urban poor, they remain excluded from mainstream conservation. Ecosystem-based adaptive conservation and wise use by communities are sustainable solutions to protect these SEPLS, wherein the opportunity costs of wetland conservation to the ultra-poor are compensated with payments for ecosystem services. This chapter documents the success of a rights-based, neo-economic conservation model, entitled “‘Bio-rights of commons”, in two such peri-urban Ramsar wetlands, the East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW) and the Deepor Beel Wetland (DBW), both on the brink of extinction. The bio-rights model was developed by the South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE) under the aegis of the Ramsar Secretariat in 2010 and implemented in the East Kolkata Ramsar wetlands. Perusal of results revealed that in both SEPLS, a rights-based conservation approach could ensure livelihood security as well as health and well-being during post-pandemic stress. A circular economic intervention was enabled at the community-ecosystem interface, through capacity-building in wastewater-fed captive fisheries, ecotourism in wetlands, and organic waste recycling as alternative livelihood opportunities. This compensated for the opportunity costs incurred by the wetland communities in conserving the SEPLS and also ensured community “biorights” to the wetlands’ ecosystem services. While these efforts steadied biodiversity indices and waterbody permanence of these Ramsar wetlands, they also provided fresh air for the pollution-wracked cities of Kolkata and Guwahati during the COVID-19 pandemic, and augmented economic opportunities in fisheries for landless casual labourers migrating back home during the countrywide lockdown. The intervention recommended an operational guideline for policy frameworks in sustainably conserving these wetland SEPLS for enriching biodiversity, human health, and well-being.
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