In the Gangetic floodplain of West Bengal, multiple use wetlands (MUW) play a significant role in the livelihoods of the local people. Over the years, these multiple use systems are being converted into single use systems for commercial gain by economically, socially and politically dominant groups. Compared to single use water systems, MUW benefit a larger number of people belonging to different socio-economic strata. Also, the economic and ecological functions of MUW change over time and space. These dynamic aspects of wetlands are often not fully recognised. Attempts to classify wetlands according to their uses across ecological zones and to carry out their economic valuation are limited. A wetland was selected in the Barddhaman district of West Bengal to evaluate the economic benefits of various direct uses. The study shows that the major economic benefits that people living in the surrounding area of the wetland derive are from wetland cultivation, direct irrigation, jute retting and fisheries. The largest benefit was from jute retting followed by fisheries and wetland cultivation. The irrigation benefits were found to be low owing to the greater distance of the farm land from the wetland, and easy access to groundwater owing to the shallow aquifers in the region.
Keywords: Direct uses, Ecological benefits, Economic valuation, India, Multiple use system, West Bengal, Wetland