WWD 2023: Top Ten India Wetlands Stories about Govt Actions

(Feature Image: Kochi Corporation’s proposal to reclaim wetlands at Brahmapuram shot down. A view of the Brahmapuram solid waste treatment plant on the banks of the Kadambrayar. | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat/ The Hindu)

In this second part of annual wetlands overview of 2022, SANDRP compiles the top ten actions by various governments in India regarding wetlands in 2022. The compilation also highlights some of the controversial steps planned and taken by the governments with an adverse impacts on wetlands conservation. The first part of wetlands review 2022 has focused on the how wetlands continue to suffer from misgovernance. 

1. Centre Integrated project for wetlands, biodiversity allocated ₹31cr for 5 yrs The Integrated Management of Wetland, Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services project, funded by the Global Environment Facility Trust Fund (GEFTF), has been allocated ₹31.13 crore for a period of 5 years, said Ashwini Kumar Choubey, minister of state for MOEF. In a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha on Feb. 10 2022, the minister said that the 3 wetlands included in the project are Sasthamcotta Lake in Kerala, Harike Lake in Punjab, and Kabartal in Bihar. These three wetlands have been awarded a total budget equivalent of ₹19.02 crores from the GEFTF. The funds are to be divided equally between the three states.

A project management unit (PMU) and National Project Steering Committee have been constituted to overlook the progress of the project. The PMU has conducted a technical appraisal of the plans submitted by state govts, analysing the incorporation of ecosystem services and biodiversity values, mapping the interventions with the threats. A framework has been designed to update existing management plans and disburse funds to the state govts for the three sites. https://www.livemint.com/news/india/integrated-project-for-wetlands-biodiversity-allocated-rs-31-crore-for-5-years-11644493119375.html  (10 Feb. 2022)

Census to count water bodies Ministry of Jal Shakti has launched the first census of water bodies in convergence with the Sixth Minor Irrigation Census (reference year 2017-18), under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme – “Irrigation Census”. The objective of the census of water bodies is to develop a national database for all water bodies by collecting information on all important aspects of the subject including their size, condition, status of encroachments, use, storage capacity etc. Presently, the field work and data processing activities of the first census of water bodies is going on. The data of water bodies upto fifth minor irrigation census is limited upto village level whereas 1st census of water bodies, conducted in convergence with 6th Minor Irrigation Census, covers all types of water bodies in both rural & urban areas. Hence, comparison of water bodies data between 5th & 6th minor irrigation censuses is not appropriate. https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1805815   (14 March 2022)

2. Maharashtra Panje officially declared a wetland by Space Application Centre Green activists who have been struggling to save the bird-rich Panje wetland in Uran taluka of Navi Mumbai are happy and excited by the latest development in the MoEF&CC as the Space Application Centre has formally reported to the Union ministry that Panje’s status is that of a wetland. Panje was mentioned in the earlier Wetland Inventory Atlas too, but the authorities ignored this fact for years, despite SAC pointing it out.

The latest National Wetland Decadal Change Atlas prepared by the Space Application Centre has been uploaded on the website of MoEF&CC. It highlights the wetlands statistics in terms of diversity, current status and changes in the last 10 years in various types of wetlands. The ‘space-based observation of Indian wetlands’ highlights that the latest total wetland area in India is estimated to be 15.98 Mha (million hectares) including rivers and excluding paddy field areas which is 0.64 Mha — more than the earlier estimates carried out in 2006-07.

With regards to Panje area, the Atlas highlights the inter-tidal water flow area, the mangroves and the salt pans. The wetland is home to over 200,000 local and migratory birds – a fact which has been ignored by the authorities. The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) has already declared the area as CRZ-1 category property which requires clearances for any construction. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/navi-mumbai/navi-mumbai-panje-officially-declared-a-wetland-by-space-application-centre/articleshow/89411494.cms  (07 Feb. 2022)

Environment ministry nominated Prof Sanjay Deshmukh, Department of Life Sciences, University of Mumbai, for the joint committee as mandated by the NGT’s Western Zonal bench in Feb 2022. This follows an RTI application filed by NatConnect Foundation for information on the committee’s status and reminders to the ministry to comply with the NGT order. Union Environment secretary Manju Pandey intervened and asked the officials to act quickly.

Confirming the wetland status of the intertidal area of Panje, the NGT ruled in February that a joint Committee of nominees of National Wetland Committee, State Wetland Authority, Maharashtra, MCZMA and Raigad District Collector needs to take all necessary steps for the “protection, conservation and management of the wetland” in question.

The joint Committee will be free to permit any protective measures during monsoon to prevent flooding, the NGT said and clarified that there is no bar to de-silting, subject to necessary approvals of the statutory authorities without adversely affecting the mangroves & tidal flow.

The 289-ha wetland stretching from Panje to Dongari villages has been allotted to Navi Mumbai Special Economic Zone & City and Industrial Development Corp has even marked it as Sectors 16 to 28 as part of the Dronagiri Development Plan which the environmentalists have vehemently opposed. https://www.freepressjournal.in/mumbai/navi-mumbai-union-environment-ministry-nominates-noted-scientist-to-monitor-panje-wetland  (29 Sept. 2022)

Out of 15,918 wetlands, 108 naturally occurring: Survey The National Wetland Inventory Atlas (NWIA), had counted a total of 44,714 wetlands in Maharashtra of which 23,046 were larger than 2.5 ha in area.

Powai Lake in Mumbai is one of the naturally occurring wetlands. (HT PHOTO)

The state environment and climate change department has completed the identification and delineation of 15,918 wetlands (area larger than 2.5 ha) across all districts in Maharashtra. Out of 15,918 wetlands, just 108 are listed as naturally occurring water bodies. Mumbai and its suburbs were found to be home to 55 wetlands, of which 34 were naturally occurring, including Powai Lake, Vihar Lake and Tulsi Lake. “What is disturbing is that many natural salt marshes and waterbodies are being shown as man-made tanks. How most have been described as manmade, thus mischievously excluding them from the ambit of legal protection,” said Stalin D, director of Vanashakti. “Man-made” structures are not protected under the Centre’s Wetland Rules (2017), putting them at risk of encroachment and burial.

Environment dept officials confirmed that a second exercise to identify smaller wetlands is on the cards & will commence by early 2023. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/out-of-15-918-wetlands-in-maharashtra-108-are-naturally-occurring-government-survey-101665422789513.html  (10 Oct. 2022)

3. Andhra Pradesh Conserving the wetlands In a first attempt to map the wetlands of Andhra Pradesh, the Forest Department has identified 26 new wetlands and collaborated with WWF – India to prepare documents and wetland health cards. The project was initiated in 2019-20 with an aim to notify the water bodies officially as wetlands, which provides legal protection under the Wetland Protection Rules, 2017. The findings brought to light many significant issues. “Most wetlands had similar issues — siltation, changes in drainage pattern — inflows and outflows, encroachment and spread of invasive alien species,” says Farida Tampal, State Director, WWF – India.

 An aerial view of Kondakarla Ava, a unique wetland near Visakhapatnam that is a home to over 150 bird species and also has a rich biodiversity like aquatic species and plants. Photo : K.R. Deepak/ The Hindu

The project also surveyed lesser known wetlands like Perali Porugu near Guntur, which had good biodiversity.  The wetlands of Andhra Pradesh are also home to some species listed as ‘threatened’ in the IUCN Red List. The Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society (EGWS), an organisation working towards wildlife conservation in the region, documented the presence of smooth-coated otters from the wetlands of Krishna River Delta in Krishna and Guntur districts back in 2016. Currently, these habitats are heavily fragmented and degraded due to anthropogenic activities like sand mining, agricultural intensification, aquaculture ponds, overgrazing, deforestation, poaching and unsustainable fishing practices. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/conserving-the-wetlands-of-andhra-pradesh/article38381637.ece  (05 Feb. 2022)

Stage set for rejuvenating Pulicat lake Chennai-based Indomer Coastal Hydraulics (P) Ltd is also conducting a survey for dredging operations to open the sea mouth at the instance of the National Centre for Coastal Research. The survey by Indomer is nearing completion and the AP Fisheries department, which is coordinating with all the line departments, is gearing up to start the dredging works from January 2023, fisheries wing officials said.

State government had requested the National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), Chennai to take up the Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) survey for opening the sea mouth into Pulicat Lake at Rayadaruvu and prepare the Detailed Project Report (DPR). NCCR prepared and submitted the DPR at an estimated cost of Rs 128.80 crore in April 2022 for opening the sea mouth at Rayadaruvu and dredging the channel length of 2800m towards the lake. Now, the government has submitted the DPR to the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, seeking 100% grant -funding under the Sagarmala Scheme. From July 2022, the state government also initiated studies for obtaining the Coastal Regulation Zone and other environmental clearances from the MoEF.

A detailed project report (DPR) was prepared by the National Institute of Ocean Technology after a study on bathymetry, topography, hydrodynamics (waves, tides & currents) and water quality (salinity & turbidity) in 2017. The Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) carried out a study in 2019 on the ecosystem and its impact on the flora and fauna and wildlife. Their report stresses that the exchange of water between sea and lake will stabilize the salinity levels, thereby increasing the diversity and abundance of planktons and fish availability in the lake. This can help in sustaining the larger wetland bird population in Pulicat Bird Sanctuary, which lies in the Central Asian Flyway Region. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/231122/stage-set-for-rejuvenating-pulicat-lake.html  (23 Nov. 2022)

Minister calls for efforts to protect 30,000 acres of wetlands Minister for Environment and Forests Peddireddi Ramachandra Reddy said Andhra Pradesh was home to 30,000 acres of wetlands as per a survey done by the MOEF&CC and exhorted the AP Wetland Board to take all steps to conserve the rich variety of flora and fauna flourishing in those lands.

Addressing the maiden meeting of the AP Wetland Board at the Secretariat on Sept. 28 2022, Mr. Ramachandra Reddy said the wetlands were encroached to some extent by farmers while fish ponds devoured the Kolleru lake from the 5th to 2nd contours. A committee was being constituted to submit a preliminary report on these encroachments in a couple of months. A fine balance should be maintained in protecting the fragile ecosystem of wetlands and the livelihood issues of people settled in those areas, he exhorted the officials.  https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/minister-calls-for-efforts-to-protect-30000-acres-of-wetlands-in-the-state/article65947294.ece  (28 Sept. 2022)

4. Karnataka Govt begins work on conservation of 10 wetlands The 10 lakes/wetlands were selected under a programme launched in 2020 by the MOEF to develop 100 wetlands across the country. A senior official said the Bonal lake in Yadgir, Heggeri lake in Haveri, Hidkal lake in Belagavi and KG Koppa in Shivamogga were four wetlands whose role in hosting rich biodiversity had been recognised.

The Forest department will soon come up with full set of information on the unique ecological role played by these wetlands. The Forest department will also prepare a detailed development plan for the Gudavi bird sanctuary in the Shivamogga district. “To ensure support at the local level, we are ensuring that none of the programmes we take up will have a negative impact on them,” the officer said.

Sources said the BDA was directed to come up with a detailed project report (DPR) for the development of Bellandur and Varthur lakes on the model of Ramsar sites. Another official said a meeting will be held to fix the responsibility of each of the 10 wetlands to a particular department or authority. The Forest department is seeking international recognition of the Aghanashini estuary, which is believed to meet all the criteria of a Ramsar site. Besides coming up with DPRs for further development, the department has been told to submit the documentation for Aghanashini, Magadi lake and Ranganthittu to nominate them as Ramsar sites at the earliest. https://www.deccanherald.com/state/top-karnataka-stories/karnataka-govt-begins-work-on-conservation-of-10-wetlands-1091983.html  (16 March 2022)

5. Kerala Corporation’s proposal to reclaim wetlands shot down The State-Level Monitoring Committee (SLMC) on Kerala Wetlands Act, 2008, which met online on April 23 2022, rejected the proposal of the civic body to reclaim 32 ha for setting up a waste-to-energy plant. In his presentation seeking permission for the reclamation, the Corporation Secretary had identified five sites covering 32 ha. However, the members of the panel pointed out that the civic body had in its possession around 15 acres of solid land reclaimed earlier, where the plant could be set up.

The meeting pointed out that the civic body could not prepare a master plan for waste management. The panel asked the Corporation to come up with a detailed plan after which the proposal for reclamation shall be considered. The State govt had earlier cleared 20 acres of wetland at Brahmapuram for reclamation by notifying it as a public project. An amendment introduced to the Wetland Acts had empowered the govt to exempt any reclamation proposal from the ambit of the Act if it was for public purposes. Incidentally, the amendments helped the govt secure the wetland for conversion though the SLMC had declined the permission for land conversion. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/kochi-corporations-proposal-to-reclaim-wetlands-at-brahmapuram-shot-down/article65351485.ece  (24 April 2022)

6. Tamil Nadu Ennore Creek to be protected under Wetland Mission Tamil Nadu Wetland Authority member secretary Deepak Srivastava on Oct. 13 2022 said the Ennore Creek, a natural carrier of floodwater and an important wetland that supports livelihood of fishermen, may soon be declared as a protected wetland under Tamil Nadu Wetland Mission. Speaking after visiting Ennore, Srivastava said the creek and adjacent group of wetlands in Tiruvallur district need to be protected, both in terms of disaster management and water security. Srivastava said he has already asked Tiruvallur collector, chairman of the district wetland authority, to make an inventory of wetlands in the district and submit a report.

Only recently, the NGT has directed the government to notify the full extent of the unencroached portion of Ennore wetlands under the Tamil Nadu Wetland Mission to protect it from further abuse. Ennore is one of the most industrialised regions in the State housing multiple ports, power plants and large petrochemical industries. This has resulted in overexploitation of critical wetlands that are key to flood mitigation and preserving Chennai’s fresh water aquifers. In its final order in a case filed by Ennore fishers Ravimaran (late) and RL Srinivasan, and fisher activist K Saravanan seeking remediation of ash-choked wetlands, the NGT had directed the Department of Environment to ensure that a Detailed Project Report is readied in nine months as per the comprehensive Terms of Reference (ToR) issued by the Joint Experts Committee in March 2022.

Ennore creek. (File Photo: P Jawahar/TNIE)

As per the expert committee’s report, in the study area of 905 ha, the area under natural wetlands had dropped by 68%. The official data shows the salt pans area reduced from 553.37 ha in 1996 to 95.55 ha; water bodies shrunk from 233.6 ha to 148.69 ha, while the area under mangroves vegetation slipped from 68.72 ha to 33.74 ha. Overall, area under wetlands shrunk from 855.69 ha in 1996 to 277.92 ha in 2022. Incidentally, over the same period, built-up land increased from 0 ha to 259.87 ha and area covered by fly ash increased from 0 to 260.28 ha. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil-nadu/2022/oct/14/ennore-creek-in-thiruvallur-district-to-be-protected-under-tamil-nadu-wetland-mission-2507890.html (14 Oct 2022)

7. Haryana Only state to Geotag 18,104 waterbodies “A 5-pillar strategy, including institutional reforms, policy interventions, focusing on key projects and activities, convergence, implementation & governance has been adopted,” said chief secretary Sanjeev Kaushal.

At national level, National Water Mission, Ministry of Jal Shakti will be implementing the mission covering both urban and rural areas of all the districts in the country. The campaign will be launched on March 29 and will continue till November 30, 2022. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/haryana-becomes-only-state-geotag-18104-water-bodies-7836517/  (25 March 2022)

8. Punjab Dept to map 700 wetlands for migratory birds Going beyond its yearly exercise of a water bird census of the protected wetlands of Punjab, the Forest and Wildlife Preservation Dept has started an exercise to map nearly 700 of the 1,445 natural and man-made sites for migratory birds, spread across 21 dists.

In a survey, 91 species of water birds were recorded at six protected wetlands. File photo/The Tribune

Based on satellite imagery provided by the Centre, wildlife officials have identified 700 such sites — mostly in Bathinda, Faridkot, Kapurthala, Muktsar, Patiala, Ropar, Sangrur & Mohali. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/dept-to-map-700-wetland-sites-for-migratory-birds-412443  (15 July 2022) The administration in Barnala, the district with the least forest cover in Punjab, is embarked on a first-of-its-kind project to create the state’s first man-made wetland, in Badbar village. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ludhiana/barnala-man-made-wetland-punjab-8342489/  (24 Dec. 2022)

9. Bihar Govt to make health card of 133 wetlands The environment, forest and climate change (DEFCC) dept has identified 133 water bodies to prepare documents and ‘ecosystem health report card’ to provide them legal protection under the Wetland Protection Rules. The Bihar State Wetland Authority (SWA) has started the survey work on the wetlands spread over more than 100 ha with focus on three areas – area of the wetland, hydrology & catchments, biodiversity & governance. The imaging of such wetlands was done with the help of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The wetlands will be examined in different phases by the forest officials, environmentalists, wetland and water experts.

Surendra Singh, director of ecology, said 28 water bodies have been surveyed in the 1st phase & 36 other wetlands have been identified for the survey. “Altogether 133 water bodies located in 26 districts, mostly in north Bihar, will be surveyed. Other water bodies will also be surveyed on different parameters later on,” he added. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/govt-to-make-health-card-of-133-wetlands/articleshow/92215024.cms  (15 June 2022)

10. West Bengal Kolkata: ‘Raze illegal structures to restore wetlands’ The East Kolkata Wetlands Management Authority (EKWMA) has urged the environment and heritage department of Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) and Anandapur police to complete the demolition of encroachments in daag numbers 1,147; 1,148 and 1,149 in Ward 108 under Dhapa mouza. In the 359 FIRs that the EKWMA has filed till date, this is only the seventh instance of a structure being pulled down. Of the several water bodies that have been drained or encroached, EKWMA has been able to restore only one in Ward 58 of Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation.

In the 359 FIRs that the EKWMA has filed till date,Thursday’s action is reportedly only the seventh instance of a structure being pulled down. ToI

“In over three decades of involvement with East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW), we have never witnessed government agencies acting on their own to protect the wetland. Also, never has remedial action happened in so short a time. It just goes to show what government agencies are capable of if they display intent. Till now, it is NGOs that have been taking the lead role. We are really happy the government has taken charge now. But citizens have to assist the government by maintaining vigil and alerting the agencies about encroachments,” said green activist Bonani Kakkar. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/raze-illegal-structures-to-restore-wetlands/articleshow/92760316.cms  (09 July 2022)

EKW start getting boundary pillars to resolve territory tussle “It has taken more than three decades to get the ball rolling. We are glad it is finally happening,” said Bonani Kakkar of PUBLIC, whose PIL before the Calcutta High Court led to a landmark judgment recognising the wetland’s importance and calling for its protection. She recounted that 30 years ago a government official had told the court that the demarcation of EKW would be completed within two months.

“The pillars should be prominently painted and marked so that there is no longer any ambiguity on whether a land is within EKWMA or outside. But this is just the beginning. The integrated management plan has to be implemented, an interpretation centre set up and maps with information boards on the Ramsar site installed along the periphery. Police must also carry out patrolling,” she said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/wetlands-start-getting-boundary-pillars-to-resolve-territory-tussle/articleshow/90505511.cms  (29 March 2022)

Environment dept to reclaim 22-acre water body in EKW https://www.telegraphindia.com/my-kolkata/news/environment-department-on-mission-to-reclaim-22-acre-water-body-in-east-kolkata-wetlands/cid/1883809  (01 Sept. 2022)

Govt grants Rs2cr to reverse EKW encroachment damage The state environment department on Sunday — World Environment Day — allocated Rs 2 crore to reverse the biggest encroachment at the internationally recognised East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW) in the 20th year of it being declared a Ramsar site. While courts have been ordering the restoration of bheris filled up by land sharks, this is the first time that funds have been set aside for restoring the encroached site back to the original condition. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/west-bengal-grants-rs-2-crore-to-reverse-ekw-encroachment-damage/articleshow/92026767.cms  (06 June 2022)

Biomethane gas plant, bio-mining work to infuse life into wetlands The Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation (BMC) is conducting bio-mining work of Mollar Bheri to restore the wetland area to its original condition. The civic authorities expect work to be completed fully in another five to six months as a plan is being mulled to set up a biomethane gas plant at the place which will convert waste into energy.

Mollar Bheri was the waste dumping ground for the Bidhannagar civic body for over 35 years along with NKDA and NDITA which also used to dump the waste generated in New Town and Sector V there. Over 400 tonne of waste is daily generated from BMC area. Following court orders, waste dumping in Mollar Bheri was prohibited as BMC started bio-mining work from 2020 to restore the area to its original condition. WBPCB chairman Kalyan Rudra said there are 123 legacy dump sites across the state. “Following court orders, bio- mining has started in 108 dump sites to disintegrate the waste,” he said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/mission-mollar-bheri-biomethane-gas-plant-bio-mining-work-to-infuse-life-into-wetlands/articleshow/97410036.cms  (29 Jan. 2023)

Other reports on Governmental steps to protect wetlands in 2022

Andhra Pradesh Kondakarla Ava Wetland Management Committee formed After a hectic effort by the District Forest Officer, the Kondakarla Ava Wetland Management Committee has been finally formed. As per DFO Anant Shankar, the committee will be headed by the District Collector of Anakapalli who will be the chairperson and DFO- Visakhapatnam will be the co-chairperson and convenor. The committee has been constituted with 16 members consisting of district officers from the departments of irrigation, agriculture, PR, tourism, education, industries, fisheries, horticulture and the APPCB. In addition there will be four experts and one representative from local NGO East Coast Conservation Team.

Kondakarla Ava is located in Atchutapuram and Munagapakka mandals of Anakapalli district and is the second largest freshwater wetland in Andhra Pradesh. It is a pristine habitat for several water birds and migratory ones too, said Mr. Anant Shankar. The formation of the committee was necessary to manage and conserve the wetland scientifically. The committee will meet once every quarterly to discuss and take decisions on issues and activities related to management and conservation. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Visakhapatnam/kondakarla-ava-wetland-management-committee-formed-in-andhra-pradesh/article65737201.ece  (06 Aug. 2022)

Uttar Pradesh Forest minister proposes ‘one district-one wetland’ initiative Forest minister Arun Kumar Saxena has asked his department to come up with ‘one district-one wetland’ initiative to promote eco-tourism. During a review meeting on Dec 7 2022, he directed divisional forest officers to ensure wetlands being developed should focus on eco-tourism. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/lucknow-news/forest-minister-proposes-one-district-one-wetland-initiative-101670610898292.html  (10 Dec. 2022)

Goa WRD to use drones to monitor encroachments on notified wetlands Of the nine wetlands notified across the country so far under the Union government’s Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017, seven are in Goa. The water resources department (WRD) has now been asked by officials of the Goa wetland authority to monitor wetlands for encroachments and other violations every six months using drones. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/wrd-to-use-drones-to-monitor-encroachments-on-notified-wetlands/articleshow/92789708.cms  (11 July 2022)

Jammu & Kashmir Hokersar being developed as eco-tourism destination Ifshan Dewan, Kashmir’s wildlife warden wetlands said this year they will be completing the beautification of the Hokersar wetland after it was delayed due to the Covid last year. “We are going for the landscaping of its camping area and laying a garden. We are also developing facilities like eateries, toilets and walkways,” she said. Jalal Jeelani, an environmental filmmaker, welcomed the move but cautioned that unregulated footfall can put undue stress on the wetland. The Wildlife Warden Wetlands, Dewan said that they will make sure that the flow of people is regulated. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/chandigarh-news/kashmirs-bird-paradise-hokersar-wetland-being-developed-as-eco-tourism-destination-101650748238840.html  (24 April 2022)

Govt to develop non-motorable walkway around Wular Lake In this regard earlier this year, Forest, Ecology and Environment Department issued an order which reads, “Administrative approval is accorded to the construction of non-motorable walkway around Wular Lake from Banyari bridge to Naaz Nallah (Phase1) including approach road to Delta park at a technical vetted cost of Rs 19.42 Cr to be completed in two working seasons.”

Wular is the largest lake in Kashmir and a flood basin that has witnessed massive encroachment during the last few decades.File/ GK

“In total, 640 kanals of land is under encroachment including the govt authorized/ accommodated Sher colony. It was apprised that there was approximately 90 kanals of land under encroachment situated at outer parameters of the Wular lake out of which encroachment at 10 kanals have been removed,” reads an official note of a meeting chaired by Divisional Commissioner on conditions of wetlands in Kashmir. https://www.greaterkashmir.com/todays-paper/front-page/govt-to-develop-non-motorable-walkway-around-wular-lake  (27 June 2022)

Delhi Waterbodies to be developed as model pond A total of 119 waterbodies situated in the villages of eight districts of Delhi are being developed as ‘model ponds’. These ponds will have to meet certain parameters like no foul smell, presence of aquatic life and dissolved oxygen levels of more than 3 micrograms per cubic metre to become a model pond, Wetland Authority of Delhi said. On World Water Day, officials said that the land-owning agencies were developing these ponds after the revenue department identified them. The wetland authority has prepared and sent benchmarks to district magistrates for restoration or creation of model ponds. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/119-waterbodies-in-delhis-villages-being-developed-as-model-ponds/articleshow/90384177.cms  (23 March 2022)

Najafgarh Jheel Delhi wetland authority begins revamp The Wetland Authority of Delhi has started the implementation of environment management plan (EMP) for the conservation of Najafgarh lake. After the NGT directed Delhi to enforce the EMP for rejuvenation and integration of the lake, the Authority has written to nine departments listing action points for execution. The departments have been asked to complete them within specified timelines. The lake falls partly in Delhi and partly in Haryana. In an order on Jan 21, the National Green Tribunal directed the MoEF to prepare an integrated EMP for the transboundary (it is partly in Delhi, partly in Haryana) wetland. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/wetland-authority-begins-revamp-of-najafgarh-lake/articleshow/90110215.cms  (10 March 2022)

Committee to monitor work on restoring jheel The Wetland Authority of Delhi has constituted a Najafgarh Wetlands Committee to be chaired by the District Magistrate, South West Delhi, to assess, monitor and guide the work that is to be done to rejuvenate and protect the Najafgarh jheel.

The Wetland Authority of Delhi will also develop a wetland management plan for the jheel, including measures for its ecological restoration. (File/TIE)

The Wetland Authority informed the NGT in a recent status report that the Najafgarh Wetlands Committee will comprise representatives from stakeholder departments, including the Municipal Corp of Delhi, Development Department, PWD, Irrigation and Flood Control Dept, Forest Dept, Delhi Pollution Control Committee, Power Dept and Delhi Jal Board. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/delhi-najafgarh-wetlands-committee-jheel-8126389/  (01 Sept. 2022)

Some controversial governmental decisions regarding wetlands protection in 2022

Najafgarh Jheel Haryana govt puts Najafgarh Jheel EMP on hold for 2 years The Haryana govt intends to reassess the status of Najafgarh Jheel with a 2-year action plan that puts on hold implementation of the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) directed by the NGT, and as a result, at least a delay in notifying the area as a wetland. State officials said on May 29 2022 that the govt will submit a report for the 2-year assessment plan within 10 days to the inter-ministerial committee formed by the Union environment ministry. The committee will likely submit the report before the NGT on July 31.

Over the next two years, this plan will aim at draining water from the submerged area in Najafgarh because officials believe most of the region is under wastewater released from Gurugram. It involves creating a 6km-bundh near the water body, installation of gates and pumps around to it to divert wastewater to the Jhajjar drain, and connecting the Najafgarh drain to the Badshapur and Dhanwapur drains. Experts said the move by the Haryana govt could not just delay the EMP, but also completely do away with the need to declare it as a wetland. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/on-hold-haryanas-green-plan-for-najafgarh-jheel/articleshow/91877888.cms  (30 May 2022)

Extension of Najafgarh jheel now a dump yard  Residents of Sector 107 and nearby areas have complained of waste dumping and dewatering at a half-acre vacant plot on the Delhi-Gurugram border. Filled with rainwater, the low-lying plot in the sector is an extension of Najafgarh jheel and is home to several bird species. According to revenue records, it is ‘banjar kadim’ (barren land) and belongs to the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG).

Residents said they have raised concerns on the waste dumping and complained several times to MCG, but no action has been  taken. ToI

Residents and environmentalists said green patches are gradually being destroyed in the city due to illegal dumping of garbage. Such low-lying areas where water has accumulated help recharge the city’s receding groundwater table. The Central Groundwater Board had earlier categorised Gurgaon as ‘over-exploited’. The authorities must create and preserve such spaces so that excess water gets accumulated there and the city isn’t flooded during monsoons, activists said. Residents of areas near the plot said they have raised concerns on the waste dumping and complained several times to MCG, but no action has been taken. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/gurgaon/earlier-a-bird-haven-extn-of-najafgarh-jheel-now-a-dump-yard/articleshow/94086775.cms  (09 Sept. 2022)

Haryana Sukhna WS: Govt cancels its EC for 10-km radius The State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), Haryana, has cancelled the environment clearance within 10-km radius of the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary. The decision is likely to affect the construction activity in the newly developed Sectors 27, 28, 30, DLF of Mansa Devi Complex, Pinjore, Amravati Enclave, many societies of Sector 20 of Panchkula and Peer Muchalla.

Now, a committee has been constituted by the SEIAA to identify the eco-sensitive zone. The committee would inspect the area around the sanctuary and identify the zone, after which further action will be taken. After the committee presents its report, the matter will go to the NGT. In 2017, a proposal was sent to the Central Govt to notify one-and-a-half-km area around the sanctuary as eco-sensitive zone, on which Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana had agreed. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/chandigarh/sukhna-wildlife-sanctuary-haryana-cancels-its-environment-clearance-for-10-km-radius-385895  (13 April 2022)

Delhi DDA asks SWA to remove 221 waterbodies from wetlands list State Wetland Authority (SWA) has received requests from land-owning agencies to “remove” as many as 221 water bodies from the official list of 1,043 water bodies identified and geo-tagged by the Delhi government over the last two years, citing ongoing development work or existing finished structures at the spot where the water bodies once stood. Of the requests, 215 locations come under the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and 6 belong to the Delhi Jal Board (DJB). Delhi lieutenant governor (LG) Anil Baijal has taken strong objection to removal of certain bodies, said officials, adding that he held a review meeting with members of various govt depts, experts and SWA officials. An expert committee, comprising of at least two wetland experts, is now likely to review the status of these water bodies, officials said.

Data shared by SWA with the LG during the meeting showed among the 221 spots, 62 currently have a building at the site; 52 are now being used to provide public services; 14 have educational institutes; and 11 sites have been turned into parks & recreational centres. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/delhi-news/remove-221-spots-from-city-wetlands-list-authority-told-101647295457612.html  (15 March 2022)

Maharashtra Over 24K mangroves to be felled for Virar-Dahanu railway line expansion The Mumbai Railway Vikas Corp (MRVC) will divert 26.5 ha of forests across 11 villages in Palghar dist to quadruple the existing railway line between Virar and Dahanu stations on the Western Railway (WR). The project will lead to the felling of 25,438 trees, including 24,302 mangroves, official documents show. To offset the loss, compensatory afforestation has been proposed on 54 hectares of degraded land in three nearby villages in the district.

The project will lead to the felling of 25,438 trees, official documents show. Picture for representation. HT

The proposal was given a go-ahead in the last meeting of the Union environment ministry’s regional empowered committee in Nagpur. The project is part of phase III of Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP-III), and involves the laying of third and fourth railway lines parallel to, and on the west of the existing double line corridor between Virar and Dahanu, for a distance of about 63 km. The cabinet committee on economic affairs, chaired by the PM, had approved phase-IIIA of MUTP in April 2020 to improve the connectivity of mass rapid transport between Mumbai, Thane, Palghar and Raigad districts. The MRVC has also sought permission from the state forest department to divert 12.7 hectares of mangrove forests across Mumbai (suburban), Thane, and Dahanu districts to make way for the fifth and sixth railway lines between Borivali and Virar on the WR, also being executed under MUTP-III. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/over-24-000-mangroves-to-be-felled-for-virar-dahanu-railway-line-expansion-101646590379365.html  (07 March 2022)

Renewed CRZ clearance for ‘scrapped’ golf course Fresh concerns have been sparked over the fate of key wetlands in Navi Mumbai, with the state government renewing Coastal Regulation Zone clearance (CRZ) for a controversial 34-hectare golf course project over the TS Chanakya and the NRI wetland complex in Sector 60, Nerul. The project, Hindustan Times had first reported in May last year, was reportedly scrapped by the Adani group to obtain environment clearance (EC) for the Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIA). The NMIA’s environment impact assessment (EIA) report, submitted to the union environment ministry in September 2021, categorically stated that the golf course is no longer being pursued.

The NMIA was then recommended for EC by MoEFCC committee in November 2021. The EIA report identifies the TS Chanakya and NRI wetlands as “large-sized roosting sites” for birds, in addition to a third roosting site at Panje in Uran. Despite this, the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) on December 7 last year allowed the project — being executed by Mistry Constructions, an Adani subsidiary — a CRZ extension for seven more years after the current clearance expires this March. Minutes of the Authority’s December 7 meeting indicate that the project is very much on the anvil.

“If the golf course project has indeed been scrapped, what is the need to extend its CRZ clearance? What is being told to the MoEFCC in the EIA report for Navi Mumbai Airport, and what is being done at the state level, are two completely different things. The EIA report seems to be making a false claim to help NMIA pass an essential regulatory hurdle,” said Sunil Agarwal, who on Friday (Jan. 28) also wrote to state authorities seeking a probe. “You are requested to please verify the whole EIA report for accuracy and review the environment clearance granted to Navi Mumbai International Airport project based on such… errors & misstatements,” Agarwal wrote.

The two wetlands, which are at risk of being subsumed by the golf course, attract thousands of flamingos during winters when the birds leave their feeding grounds in Thane Creek during the high tide and come to Navi Mumbai to roost. The important ecological function of the wetlands has been pointed out by several environmentalists, the state forest department (which intends to declare the water bodies as conservation reserves) and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), which conducted the biodiversity assessment for the NMIA project at CIDCO’s behest.

The project has been at the centre of a legal battle waged by Navi Mumbai residents Sunil and Shruti Agarwal, challenging CIDCO’s October 2016 notification converting the land use of the site from ‘no development zone’ to ‘regional park zone’, thus paving way for the golf course in a protected wetland area (the land is classified as CRZ-1, per the CZMP for Thane district).

The maximum number of birds observed in a single day during the EIA monitoring period (from December 2019 to February 2020) across these six wetlands numbered 10,861. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/renewed-crz-clearance-for-scrapped-golf-course-sparks-fresh-concern-over-navi-mumbai-wetlands-101674931096899-amp.html  (29 Jan. 2023)

A controversial project by state-controlled CIDCO and private developer Mistry Constructions to build a 34-hectare golf course over the TS Chanakya and the NRI wetland complex in Navi Mumbai has been scrapped to prevent the threat of “bird hit calamities” and related accidents at the upcoming NMIA, which is being developed by the Adani Group (of which Mistry Constructions is a subsidiary). https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/mumbai-news/proposed-golf-course-project-near-navi-mumbai-airport-scrapped-101650990598858.html  (26 April 2022)

Centre upset over govt’s silence on MMR wetland burial Upset with the lack of action from the state authorities, the MoEF&CC has set a fresh 15-day deadline for the Maharashtra Environment department to act on the series of complaints from green groups against destruction of wetlands in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). Taking a serious note of lack of response from the state environment department and the wetland authority despite five e-mails from the Centre, Dr E. Arockia Lenin, Director and Scientist-C, from the MOEFCC has sent a fresh missive to State Environment Principal Secretary Manisha Patankar Mhaiskar & called for a time bound action and sending an Action Taken Report. https://www.deccanherald.com/national/west/centre-upset-over-maharashtras-silence-on-mmr-wetland-burial-1124558.html  (07 July 2022)

Telangana Centre not releasing water bodies restoration funds In the last four financial years, the Centre has not released any funds for repair, renovation and restoration of water bodies in Telangana, according to figures from 2018-19 that were placed in the Lok Sabha earlier this week. As per the information placed in the Lok Sabha, a Central assistance of Rs.498.3 crore was released to 11 States between 2014-15 and 2022-23. Of these, Odisha and Telangana have completed the highest number of renovation works of 810 and 437 water bodies respectively. However, the Centre sanctioned Rs 47.96 crore to Odisha while Telangana was sanctioned Rs 15.47 crore, over the last eight years.

No funds were released to Telangana since 2018-19 indicating sheer discrimination. However, the Centre released Rs 17.87 crore to Bihar where renovation works were taken up in only 59 water bodies and Rs.33 crore to Madhya Pradesh, which completed renovation works in 124 water bodies. Till December 6 during this financial year, the Jal Shakti Ministry completed renovation of 20,357 water bodies in Uttar Pradesh, 15,189 in Andhra Pradesh, 12,185 in Karnataka, 9,825 in Odisha, 9,014 in Tamil Nadu, and 7,849 in Chhattisgarh, among others. Only 3,414 water bodies were renovated in Telangana. https://telanganatoday.com/centre-continues-discrimination-towards-telangana-in-restoration-of-water-bodies  (11 Dec. 2022)

Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

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