World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 02 annually to highlight the importance of wetlands around the world. The theme for 2022 is Wetlands Action for People and Nature. As part of our annual overview; we have compiled here positive initiatives by individuals and groups for wetlands in India in 2021.
We have already published three part series wetlands in India in 2021 The first part covers current situation of wetlands, the second part highlights the steps taken by governments and the third part compiles judicial intervention for the wetlands.
Maharashtra Citizen action saved Lotus Lake in Navi Mumbai Lotus Lake is located in Sector 27, Nerul, very close to the Belapur Sports Ground. The approximately 3-hectare lake derives its name from the thousands of lotus plants that can be seen on its surface, and in fact, lends its name to several shops and buildings in the area.
Some days ago, a few citizens from the neighbourhood took it upon themselves to keep “watch” at the place where the vehicles were entering. During this time they encountered a jeep from the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) Debris Dept. Two people who alighted told them to “move out of the way” as the dumper was going to come. On further conversation our citizen watch guards were shown a permission letter on the mobile that said that they were allowed to dump debris at the lakeside. The men seemed to be a bit disturbed by their presence, and they quickly started their jeep and left the place. Our citizens waited for a while but no dumper came. On talking to local folk and checking out the place, it was evident that about 500 truckloads of debris had already been unloaded. https://mumbai.citizenmatters.in/water-bodies-lakes-wetlands-dumping-solid-waste-23311 (15 March 2021)
Saving wetlands during pandemic While the citizens have been writing to various authorities and ministries, due to the pandemic, the issue is getting side-lined. The citizens say that this is helping the private and government officials to complete their encroachment activities. Just like the Panje area, other wetlands and mangroves areas in the MMR region have been facing environmental issues.
Environmentalists have been requesting to declare Panje as a bird sanctuary to the state authority. But the request has been pending with the environment ministry. BN Kumar said, “The State Mangrove Foundation has been asking to transfer the Panje and other wetlands of Belpada and Bhendkhal so that they can be conserved properly.” https://mumbai.citizenmatters.in/environmentalists-fight-to-stop-concrete-destruction-24343 (4 June 2021)
Digital agitation to save Panje wetland Ahead of the World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD), city environmentalists have launched a digital agitation for conserving the 300-hectare Panje wetland in Uran as a biodiversity park and saving the destination for over 1,50,000 birds and the traditional source of survival for the fishing community. WMBD is an annual awareness campaign highlighting the need for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats and the main days for the international celebrations are the second Saturday in May and in October. The WMBD 2021 theme is ‘Sing, Fly, Soar – Like A Bird!’.
An online petition to the government, posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are part of the ‘digital agitation’. “It will be an environmental disaster of the Himalayan scale if we kill this beautiful wetland despite the concerns from all across, except the vested interests,” said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation, who wrote to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Traditional fishing community forum Paaramparik Machhimar Bachao Kruti Samiti said no authority worth its name has bothered to look at the genuine, survival issues of the fishing community. “Our constitutional right is being violated to practice our trade and has been denied to us for decades with the onset of projects such as ONGC, JNPT, NMSEZ,” Samiti spokesman Dilip Koli said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/navi-mumbai/navi-mumbai-environmentalists-launch-digital-agitation-to-save-panje-wetland/articleshow/86320338.cms (18 Sept. 2021)
Citizens join in Kharghar The Kharghar wetlands and hills group consists of diverse citizens coming together to conserve the biodiversity-rich Kharghar node in Navi Mumbai. Its founding members, Nareshchandra Singh and Jyoti Nadkarni, write about how the group grew, how it kept going despite challenges — and how otters, insects and birds fortify its spirits. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/from-four-to-500-how-citizens-joined-naturally-to-save-nature-in-kharghar/articleshow/85911742.cms (04 Sept. 2021)
The biodiversity of Kharghar is constantly under threat. Illegal activities are destroying the natural habitats of the animal life in the ecosystems. https://mumbai.citizenmatters.in/threats-to-the-ecosystem-of-the-wetlands-of-kharghar-24095 (26 May 2021) Petition making appeal for identification of “wetlands” in Kharghar. https://www.change.org/p/chief-minister-of-maharashtra-urgently-identify-and-map-wetlands-of-kharghar
Mangrove soldiers cleared over 40 tonnes of trash in just a year Last year, Dharmesh Barai, a young environment enthusiast from Navi Mumbai, initiated the Mangrove Clean-Up Drive along with Rohan Bhosale and Sriram Shanker after seeing the worsening condition of mangroves due to choked roots and waste accumulating in the mangrove forest. This little effort started by a couple of volunteers expanded to attract people from many walks of life, proving to be a successful cause.
Dharmesh said, “Nearly 700 volunteers actively took part and now all volunteers known as Mangroves soldiers, have been more active in these Clean-up drives, clearing waste from waterfalls, mangroves, mountains, lakes, rivers and hills. In addition, Mangrove Foundation and NMMC has shown its unwavering support by sending out staff, collecting waste from the area, and supplying gloves and other supplies to volunteers.” About 40 tonnes of trash were cleaned from mangroves in total and area covered from Nerul to Belapur coastline. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/mumbais-mangrove-soldiers-cleared-over-40-tonnes-of-trash-in-just-a-year/articleshow/85451465.cms (19 Aug. 2021)
Airoli creek clean up The amount of filth and garbage that’s being unearthed in the ongoing drive to clean-up the mangroves in Airoli, Mumbai – which the state government declared the ‘Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary’ in 2015 – has left even the authorities astounded. The Mangrove and Marine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation of Maharashtra, along with three volunteer groups, started the drive in the last week of December, and has so far removed close to eight tonnes of garbage. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/religious-idols-toilet-seats-mattresses-the-8000-kg-sea-of-garbage-threatening-mumbais-mangroves/articleshow/81257915.cms (01 March 2021)
For the last 43 weeks on every Sunday, With Them For Them (WTFT), a social working group of youth has been collecting waste from mangroves from the creeks in Navi Mumbai. The group has already collected over 50,000 kg of waste, including plastics, expired medicines, masks, gloves, syringes, and bottles. https://www.freepressjournal.in/mumbai/angels-of-mumbai-mangrove-soldiers-aim-to-make-creeks-waste-free (31 Oct. 2021)
Supermoon effect restores tidal water in dry Panje Supermoon phenomenon managed to do a tiny ‘super-miracle’ at the parched Panje wetland, which the environmentalists were quite literally begging the government officials to restore. Due to the strong tidal effects of supermoon, the seawater at Panje has managed to cross over the man-made bunds that were blocking the water movement. As the tidal water gushed through, several migratory birds also immediately started coming into Panje. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/navi-mumbai/navi-mumbai-supermoon-effect-restores-tidal-water-in-dry-panje-wetland-migratory-birds-return/articleshow/82310612.cms (29 April 2021)
Mangroves come alive at Uran Reckless dumping of urban garbage for well over 15 years has killed many mangroves at Bori Pakhadi in Uran across Mumbai harbour, but sea plants have grown once more, proving that they can survive and regrow without human intervention. This is the second case of destroyed mangroves coming back to life on their own.
Earlier, over 5,000 sea plants, killed during the expansion of NH348, had sprouted again after the tidal water flow that was blocked was restored due to persistent campaigning by environmentalists. “But the continued violation of Bombay HC order to protect mangroves definitely calls for contempt cases against the NHAI and CIDCO respectively in both these incidents,” said B N Kumar. https://www.deccanherald.com/national/west/maharashtra-killed-by-garbage-dump-mangroves-come-alive-at-uran-1025436.html (31 Aug. 2021)
Panje wetland brims with life again In a successful conservation story, the Panje wetland in Uran in Raigad district across Mumbai harbour has come back to life with the resumption of free flow of tidal water. The water started attracting migratory birds after a gap of close to two years and the fishing community too started having a good catch.
“This signals the tremendous potential the wetland has,” said Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishthan. Crabs and fish are found in the saline water and most importantly, they breed in the adjoining mangroves, said Pawar, who hails from the fisherfolk community. “This wetland with its fantastic biodiversity can contribute to the socio-economic development of the fishing community-dominated four villages – Panje, Diongari, Funde and Bokadvira – surrounding the 289-ha water body,” said B N Kumar. https://www.deccanherald.com/national/west/mumbais-panje-wetland-brims-with-life-again-villagers-net-huge-fishes-crabs-1061452.html (16 Dec. 2021)
Smooth-coated otters spotted The otters were spotted and photographed by birders S Ramprasad and Sanjeev Balsara near Sector-16 in Kharghar. Their presence has been documented in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts earlier. In 2017, the first-ever census of smooth-coated otters along Maharashtra coast pegged their population at around 500. The census had found between 437 and 591 otters across 12 creeks in Sindhudurg. In 2019, a pair of otters was seen in Roha, Raigad district.
Navi Mumbai-based BN Kumar, who has been campaigning for the creation of a biodiversity protection plan, said, “This sighting is all the more reason for authorities to take stock of and find measures to protect such wildlife. We have created a list of 20 areas across the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) including Kharghar creek that require a higher level of protection. We will present our findings to BNHS.” https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/smoothcoated-otters-spotted-in-kharghar-creek-in-navi-mumbai-101628877596475.html (13 Aug. 2021)
According to a study by Pune-based NGO Ela Foundation, there was a threat to otters habitat due to sand mining, dredging, water pollution from pesticides and industrial waste. The pollution has led to high water turbidity in some creeks limiting their capacity to fish. “The fresh sighting in Kharghar Creek is possibly the first time in several years that these otters have been seen so far north. It indicates that the area may have a healthy fish population. Further vigilance and study are required to know whether these otters were in Kharghar creek in search of food or if they are living there,” the report further quoted Rahul Khot, Assistant Director, Natural History Collection Department, BNHS. https://www.timesnownews.com/mumbai/article/mumbai-endangered-smooth-coated-otters-seen-in-navi-mumbai-s-kharghar-creek/798947 (14 Aug. 2021)
Flamingoes spotted in Kharghar wetlands after 2 years After two years and seven months, the flamingos are back in the Kharghar wetlands, creating a lot of buzz among the bird watchers and nature lovers. Many residents spotted these winged wonders and passed on the message so that more people could spot them.
“This reinforces the point that the mudflats, mangroves and wetlands of the area need to be protected,” said BN Kumar, who has earlier complained to the govt and the High Court-appointed mangrove committee about the destruction of mangroves and mudflats in Kharghar. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/flamingoes-spotted-in-kharghar-wetlands-after-2-years-and-7-months-101642253474001.html (15 Jan. 2022)
Pune wetlands near flourishing with aquatic plants A botanist couple – Savita and Sanjaykumar Rahangdale – undertook a nine-year-long study of wetlands in the district. They recorded 67 endemic taxa (group of organisms) and labelled four to be facing some degree of threat to their existence in the region. Of the over two lakh wetlands in India, 23,046 are found in Maharashtra. Home to three rivers like Mula-Mutha, Neera and Ghod-Bhima along with numerous small and big reservoirs, Pune also has 11 wetlands.
However, the riverine wetlands within city limits of Pune were found to be increasingly flourishing with invasive weeds, like hyacinth – a common sight along the banks of Mula and Mutha rivers in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad. “In the last decade, these invasive weeds have expanded their area. This is mainly due to the rising pollution levels in the rivers,” the researcher said. “In addition to pollutants, unchecked encroachments into wetlands for settlements or other purposes, too, are posing serious threat to the aquatic plants,” he said. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/pune-wetlands-sahyadri-ranges-aquatic-plants-7140988/ (10 Jan. 2021)
‘Collaborative efforts needed to save wetlands in NNTR corridor’ Mahendra Bhojram Raut (33) is a wildlife biologist working as a field officer in the Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR) corridor since the last decade and was awarded a doctorate by Nagpur University for his distinct study on ‘Status, threats and conservation measures of wetland avifauna in the NNTR corridor in the eastern Vidarbha landscape’. In an interview he talks about the reasons behind water bodies in the corridor havubg shrunk by over 78 sq km in the last 20 years.
Excerpts…There are 71 non-perennial lakes in the NNTR corridor. I studied 5 perennial lakes. 89 villages located in the corridor are directly dependent on these wetland resources for fish, water for agriculture and other benefits. These wetlands are ecosystem management functionaries. For example, flood mitigation, storm abetment, aesthetic and subsistence etc. In natural conditions, these wetlands store floodwater temporarily and protect downstream areas from flash floods. These wetlands have supported villages in developing agriculture, water systems and fishing. These also help in the dispersal and movement of wild animals for food, water, fodder, shelter, breeding etc. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/collaborative-efforts-needed-to-save-wetlands-in-nntr-corridor/articleshow/87230487.cms (24 Oct. 2021)
Tamil Nadu Care Earth develops illustrated manual on wetlands for children In a bid to teach the complex concepts of wetland ecology to children in an absorbing manner, Care Earth Trust, has developed an illustrated learning module along with SwedBio, a programme of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Home of the Blue Lily, a manual on wetland ecology is aimed at drawing children’s attention to ecosystems native to their region. The organisation plans to print the manual and distribute them in government schools and among educators. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/care-earth-brings-out-illustrated-manual-on-wetlands-for-children/article33734760.ece (03 Feb. 2021)
Kerala Wetland Schooling kicks off at Vellayani Wetland Schooling, a community-based educational and awareness programme on wetlands for students has kicked off at Vellayani— the second largest wetland and freshwater lake in Kerala.
The program, which is being rolled out by Climatehood— a youth climate fraternity— offers wetland walk, bird watching, wetland cleaning. On the occasion of World Wetlands Day on Feb 2, Climatehood organised the first-ever wetland schooling session for the students of All Saints’ College, Thiruvananthapuram. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/thiruvananthapuram/2021/feb/04/wetland-schooling-kicks-off-at-vellayani-2259168.html (04 Feb. 2021)
Septuagenarian ensures Kole’s wetland status remains intact through farming For academics and researchers coming down to study the Vembanad-Kole wetlands, one of India’s 41 Ramsar sites, their go-to person is a septuagenarian agriculturist Kochu Muhammed. Muhammed coordinates over 130 clusters of farmers for an elaborate process of dewatering, storing and recycling water from the wetlands to facilitate paddy cultivation and maintain water in the wetlands.
The Kole wetland survives with human interference, as paddy cultivation maintains the ecosystem. This human intervention, coupled with ensuring natural succession in ownership is important, otherwise, the land would get converted into a forest habitat, say experts. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/02/septuagenarian-ensures-koles-wetland-status-remains-intact-through-farming/ (17 Feb. 2021)
Odisha Community mangrove forest protects a village from eroding away Over the past 12 years, the residents of Badakot have converted degraded land into a 25-acre mangrove forest that protects their village from eroding away.
Bijay Kumar Kabi led the community to develop the mangrove forest and also negotiated with the forest department and others for seeds, training and other requirements to ensure the mangroves are grown scientifically and the toil of the community doesn’t turn futile. Badakot lies along the periphery of Bhitarkanika, one of the largest mangrove ecosystems in India and a Ramsar site. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/03/a-community-created-mangrove-forest-protects-a-village-from-eroding-away/ (02 March 2021)
Communities step in to save Chilika Lake’s elusive mascot The community-managed monitoring and patrolling of fishing cats in Chilika began in May after the first-ever census of the cat commenced in the lake. The exercise hasn’t stopped since then. At least two more villages – Hardas and Bhushandpur – too have similar fishing cat conservation units created at community level.
Bringing these villagers together were founders of The Fishing Cat Project Tiasa Adhya and Partha Dey who collaborated with the Chilika Development Authority (CDA). The idea was to involve locals in conservation activities and enhance their understanding of the importance of fishing cats to Chilika. The first round of the maiden census conducted in Sorana-Mangalajodi side of Chilika had found presence of over 100 fishing cats. The second round enumeration on Krushnaprasad side of Chilika will be conducted in January next.
While population of fishing cats – called Baghadi or Macharanka Bilei in Odia – is distributed throughout Chilika, their numbers are relatively higher in the 115 sq km of its marshlands. And in this part of the wetlands, the fishing cat shares the landscape with two Otter species – Eurasian Otter and Smooth coated Otter. Biologist Tiasa, who began the project in Chilika in 2017, says existence of these three species in one place is rare. Compared to other parts of India, fishing cats are safe in Chilika. In neighbouring West Bengal, it is considered a conflict animal because it preys on fish in private ponds. https://www.newindianexpress.com/good-news/2021/dec/12/communities-step-in-to-save-chilika-lakes-elusivemascot-2394692.html (12 Dec. 2021)
Himachal Pradesh Managing waste to save wetlands With varied topography, Himachal Pradesh has a number of wetlands spread across various ecological zones. Around 271 lakes are located across the state’s 12 districts. Local communities in Himachal have a spiritual bond with lakes in the state and most of the water bodies are considered sacred.
Increasing tourism and irresponsible disposal of plastic waste are among the threats to these wetlands. Pradeep Sangwan leads an organisation that has been actively cleaning up the wetlands in the region through clean-up treks and waste management activities. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/03/managing-waste-to-save-the-wetlands-of-himachal-pradesh/ (16 March 2021)
Arunachal Pradesh The monks who protect the Bhagajang wetland At an elevation of above 4,000 metres in Tawang district lies the Bhagajang Wetland Complex that has around 20 high-altitude lakes ranging from 0.01 sqkm to about 0.35 sqkm. At least 12 of these are said to be considered sacred by Buddhist communities. In 2009, concerned about the impact of tourism on the environment, officials from the Tawang Monastery and WWF-India partnered to address some of these issues and conserve the environment in the wetland region.
Among the monks who are silently doing their bit in environmental protection is Phuntsok Wangchuk. Over the past 14 years he has spent around three months every year at the Bhagajang Wetland Complex to guide and care for pilgrims that visit the sacred wetlands.
Arunachal Pradesh has 1672 high altitude wetlands (above 3000 m altitude), among the highest such wetlands in India, after Kashmir. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/03/the-monks-who-protect-the-bhagajang-wetland/ (10 March 2021)
Delhi 4 constructed wetlands to get functional 4 constructed wetlands, which will naturally purify 200-250 MLD of raw sewage before the water enters the Yamuna, will become functional from this month. Officials at South Delhi Biodiversity Park and a team of Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystem have jointly constructed these wetlands.
Wetlands are spread over 160 acres in the park and they receive 1,500-2,000 MLD of untreated sewage from drains. For treating raw sewage, officials had decided to create 11 constructed wetlands. Of these, two, which naturally purify 21 MLD of untreated sewage, are currently functional. Officials said they were planning to regularly monitor the quality of water cleaned through the wetlands. The constructed wetlands comprise 25 plant species, which naturally purify water. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/4-constructed-wetlands-in-s-delhi-park-to-get-functional/articleshow/80657319.cms (3 Feb 2021)
Some other relevant reports
Inception of World Mangrove Day The first World Mangrove Day was officially held on 26 July 2016. On 6 November 2015, at its 38th session of the General Conference in Paris, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially declared 26th July of each year, in response to the request of Ecuador, as the International Day of the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, through the resolution 38C/66. This Day is also known as World Mangrove Day.
The date was chosen to commemorate Greenpeace activist Hayhow Daniel Nanoto, who died of a heart attack on the 26th July 1998 during a massive protest to re-establish the mangrove wetlands in Muisne, Ecuador. https://www.careourearth.com/world-mangrove-day/
Here is closer look at this important ecosystem and highlighting some of the fascinating mangrove papers that have been published in Journal of Ecology in recent years. https://jecologyblog.com/2020/07/26/happy-world-mangrove-day-2020/ (26 July 2020)
The Wetland Champions Series of Mongabay-India and Wetland International, South Asia, identified 25 such successful efforts from across the country. This series has also provided hope to other ongoing efforts across the country. https://hindi.mongabay.com/2021/07/29/wetland-champions-a-ray-of-hope/ (29 July 2021)
Prof Rajiv Sinha of IIT Kanpur on “Protecting Floodplains and Riverine Wetlands in the Ganga Basin to Foster River Health” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Uz5tVF0dxg (2 Mar 2021)
Prof. Brij Gopal Memorial River Lecture by Prof. Somnath Bandyopadhyay, Nalanda University on floods, floodplains and wetlands. https://www.facebook.com/IndiaRiversForum/videos/434889864432970/ (22 Mar 2021)
Integrated Coastal Management & Wetlands https://youtu.be/ooqJ3N3k9VQ (10 Dec. 2021)
Floodplain as water sanctuaries Floodplains & a forested river-corridor along the rivers provide a natural filter to help purify, rejuvenate & restock our water supply: Venkatesh Dutta.
The Ganga is about 2525 km long and its flood terrace is vast. The wetlands on the fringes of Ganga are one of the most productive ecosystems, cleaning and regulating water systems while providing a home for a variety of aquatic plants and wildlife. On a conservative estimate, if 500 metres along both banks are left as no-development zones, it can store huge amount of freshwater. Hundreds of smaller rivers and tributaries of Ganga can also be declared as water sanctuaries. This will ensure a water-positive society, restore rivers, revitalize ecology and sustain biodiversity. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/need-to-create-water-sanctuaries-to-save-humanity/articleshow/86923622.cms (11 Oct. 2021)
Restoring urban wetlands for a brighter future by Priya Ranganathan It is time for India to look beyond protected areas and protected wetlands and extend conservation measures to lesser-studied waterbodies, including those within city limits, writes the author of this commentary on World Wetlands Day. https://india.mongabay.com/2021/02/commentary-restoring-urban-wetlands-for-a-brighter-future/ (02 Feb. 2021)
How wetlands reduce storm effects Coastal wetlands reduce the damaging effects of tropical cyclones on coastal communities by absorbing storm energy in ways that neither solid land nor open water can. The mechanisms involved include decreasing the area of open water (fetch) for wind to form waves, increasing drag on water motion and hence the amplitude of a storm surge, reducing direct wind effects on the water surface, and directly absorbing wave energy. Wetland vegetation contributes by decreasing surges and waves and maintaining shallow water depths that have the same effect. Wetlands also reduce flood damages by absorbing flood waters caused by rain and moderating their effects on built-up areas. https://theconversation.com/forget-massive-seawalls-coastal-wetlands-offer-the-best-storm-protection-money-can-buy-165872 (17 Aug. 2021)
Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat (firstname.lastname@example.org)