Dams · Wetlands

India Wetlands Review 2017: Important Governments Decisions

Central Government Decisions

Environment ministry notifies new wetland rules In a major decision, the union environment ministry notified the new Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017 on 26 Sept. 2017 replacing the 2010 version of the rules. The draft of the Wetland Rules was first presented by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in March 2016. But they were severely criticized by conservationists who had alleged that the draft rules don’t mention anything about a national regulator and don’t list specific activities prohibited in these ecologically sensitive areas.

The new rules stipulate setting up of a State Wetlands Authority in each State and union territories that will be headed by the State’s environment minister and include a range of government officials. They will also include one expert each in the fields of wetland ecology, hydrology, fisheries, landscape planning and socioeconomics to be nominated by the state government.

The State authorities will also need to prepare a list of all wetlands of the State or union territory within three months, a list of wetlands to be notified within six months, a comprehensive digital inventory of all wetlands within one year which will be updated every ten years.

To oversee the work carried out by States, the rules stipulates for setting up of National Wetlands Committee, which will be headed by the MoEFCC Secretary, to monitor implementation of these rules. The Committee will also advise the Central Government on appropriate policies and action programmes for conservation and wise use of wetlands, recommend designation of wetlands of international importance under Ramsar Convention, advise on collaboration with international agencies on issues related to wetlands etc. http://www.livemint.com/Politics/y6Tr3tkrr3q28AmGKaBFII/Environment-ministry-notifies-new-wetland-rules.html  (Live Mint, 28 Sept. 2017)

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Dams · Wetlands

India Wetlands Review 2017: Important Court Orders

SUPREME COURT The Supreme Court of India is hearing a matter Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s). 230/2001 in which there have been several orders of consequence this year (e.g. 8 Feb 2017 & 16 Aug 2017) for protection of wetlands.  In spite of several directions for identification, preparation of brief documents, implementation of rules 4, notification of wetlands under the Wetlands Rules 2010, hardly any progress has happened.

Rule 4 of Wetlands Rules 2010 applicable to Wetlands of size ≥2.25 ha 

 “National Wetland Inventory & Assessment” was filed in SC. This Brochure indicates on page 11 that 2,01,503 wetlands have been mapped at 1:50,000 scale. All these wetlands have ‘an area of more than 2.25 hectares’. As a first step, the ‘Brief Documents’ with regard to these 2,01,503 wetlands should be obtained by the Union of India from the respective State Governments in terms of Rule 6 of the Wetlands (Conservation and management) Rules, 2010.

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South India Wetlands Review 2017: Wetlands Critical in Changing Climate

KERALA WETLANDS REVIEW 2017

State wetlands face multiple threats In March 2017, a book titled “Biodiversity Richness of Kerala” revealed that riverine ecosystem of Kerala were subjected to human pressures in form of deforestation, land use change, construction of dams, roads, encroachments and mining affecting water holding capacity of the catchments and leading to drying up the rivers and wetlands. Kerala constituted only 1.18 per cent of India’s geographical area but it accommodated 25.69 per cent of the flowering plants in the country. In 2004, Kerala had around 328,402 hectare of wetlands which over the years had fallen to 160,590 hectare dramatic 49 per cent decrease. http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/kerala-wetlands-face-multiple-threats-says-book-117030200590_1.html (Business Standard, 2 March 2017)

Mining posing threat to mangrove forests In Feb. 2017, the district environment committee of the Kerala Sastra Sahithya Parishad alleged that the mineral sand-mining activity carried out by the public-sector Indian Rare Earths along Vellanathurutu in Alapad panchayat was causing widespread damage to the naturally growing mangrove forests in the area. Calling for immediate ban on mining activity the committee complained that a destructive mechanical process was being applied in the area instead of applying the more eco-friendly beach washing method of mining.  According to committee the activity had already destroyed over 2 ha of mangrove forests at estuary where the Pallikkal River met the sea. At least 12 mangrove species, some of them threatened or endangered, were growing in the region. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-kerala/Mineral-sand-mining-posing-threat-to-mangrove-forests/article17281729.ece (The Hindu, 10 Feb. 2017)

The mining area of the Indian Rare Earths at Vellanathuruthu where mangrove forests have been destroyed. (Image Source: The Hindu)

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Karnataka Wetlands Review 2017: Bellandur Lake Remains On Fire

Wetlands For A Sustainable Urban Future : Text from Face Book post by Vishwanath Srikantaiah on occasion of World Wetlands Day 2018. 

Much grief, energy and monies can be saved if we imagine our ‘tanks’ as wetlands rather than water bodies in the city of Bengaluru.

World wetlands day is celebrated on the 2nd of February every year. For this year 2018 the theme is “Wetlands for a sustainable urban future”.

A simple definition for a wetland is that it is an area that tends to be saturated with water either permanently or seasonally and harbours a distinct type set of plants. Wetlands behave differently from a water body like a lake and need to be managed, if at all, completely differently.

Wetlands harbour bio-diversity much more than only water, have the ability to absorb pollutants and nutrients better, can manage floods, recharge groundwater, moderate temperature and area huge asset for a city.

In the city of Bengaluru itself the Karnataka State Lake Conservation and Development Authority (KLCDA) has sent a proposal to the central government that 176 tanks within the city be declared as wetlands. This would potentially protect these tanks better from encroachment and solid waste dumping as well as the construction of roads within.

The polluted stretches of the Vrishabhavati and the Dakshina Pinakini could also be brought under wetlands protection.

Wetlands, in combination with waste-water treatment plants, are a good way of reviving the tanks in the city. The example of Jakkur and Rachenahalli are possible starting points for an integrated approach to manage water in the city with wetlands playing an important role. Here waste-water treated to secondary standards are then allowed in to the wetlands which remove nitrates and reduce Total Suspended Solids, thus allowing for it to fill the water body. In turn , the lakes allow for fishing and recharge the surrounding aquifers.

Wetlands provide for a range of services including livelihoods for the poorer sections of society. Even now a range of fodder collectors pick up grass and alligator weed ( called Hongonney in Kannada ) for feeding their cattle almost all across the city.

Remedied waste-water from the city can be further treated in the wetlands and used for agricultural purpose. The proposal and project to transfer treated waste-water to the districts of Kolar and Chikballapur can also benefit substantially if wetlands are integrated in to the design at the first receiving tanks. This would also enhance flora and faunal biodiversity in the tanks of these drought prone rural districts at the same time benefiting agriculture there.

Integrating wetlands into the master plan and the urban fabric of cities is the need of the hour and that would be water wisdom.

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West India Wetlands Review 2017: No Protection Here

GUJARAT WETLANDS DEVELOPMENTS 2017

Gosabara wetland declared IBA In March 2017 during a two days workshop, The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) declared 96 sq km coastal wetland area of Gosabara-Mokarsagar in Porbandar, as Important Bird Area (IBA) site. There are around 544 IBAs in India and 18 in Gujarat. As per experts though IBA does not have any legal status, it helps environmentalists to raise alarm if the site faces any threats and press for its conservation. In 2001, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology (SACON) conducted a country-wide survey for important ‘Inland Wetlands of India’ and Gosabara-Mokarsagar wetland was one the 50 important wetlands of the country.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/rajkot/gosabara-wetland-now-a-bnhs-iba-site/articleshow/57453811.cms  (The Times of India, 4 March 2017)

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Maharashtra Wetlands Review 2017: Destruction Despite Legal Intervention

Throughout 2017, civil society groups have been working hard to protect the wetlands in mangrove and coastal area in Maharashtra. Bombay High Court has also passed several orders in this regard. State Government has taken some steps in the interest of wetlands. However despite all these, the wetlands in Maharashtra stand at the receiving end of encroachments, pollution and waste dumping.

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Dams · Wetlands

East India Wetlands Review 2017: West Bengal Bent On Destroying World’s Largest Natural Sewage Treatment Plant

The East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW) are unique yet complex system of natural and human-made wetlands in West Bengal. The wetlands cover 125 sq km comprising of salt marshes, salt meadows, sewage farms and settling ponds. They are used to treat Kolkata’s sewage, and the nutrients contained in the waste water sustain fish farms and agriculture.

Devised by local fishermen and farmers, these wetlands served, in effect, as the largest natural sewage treatment plant (STP) for the city. And using the purification capacity of wetlands, Kolkata by transforming nearly one-third of the city’s sewage into a rich harvest of fish and fresh vegetables daily, has pioneered an environment-friendly system of sewage disposal. Because of this, the EKW were designated a “wetland of international importance” under the Ramsar Convention on August 19, 2002. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Kolkata_Wetlands

However for past many years, these wetlands are under threat due to exponential expansion of real-estate projects. Recently illegal landfills are on the rise and unprecedented land development and urbanization have been creating concerns about the impact on EKW environment. 2017 has seen the situation turning only worse for EKW. 

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Dams · Wetlands

North East Wetlands Review 2017: “Remove Ithai Barrage on Loktak Lake”

MANIPUR

Loktak lake is the largest freshwater lake near Moirang in Manipur state. In local language Loktak means end of stream. The lake is referred as the “lifeline of Manipur” as it is highly productive and provides habitat to biota and livelihoods to people. The lake is an Important Bird Area (IBA) and is widely famous for the phumdis (heterogeneous mass of vegetation, soil and organic matter at various stages of decomposition) floating over it.

In 1990, the lake was included under Ramsar Convention as a ‘Wetland of International Importance’. But over the years, NHPC’s hydropower projects specially Ithai Barrage have led to severe impact on the lake eco-system and serious disturbance in local community.  Despite this, NHPC has been pushing more hydro projects on the lake streams. As a result, local people and concerned have univocally and repeatedly started protesting against proposed hydro projects and demanding removal of Ithai barrage. And the demand have only grown louder in 2017.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loktak_Lake

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Dams · Wetlands

North India Wetlands Review 2017: Callous Governments

After separate reports on key developments surrounding wetlands in 2017 in North India including Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Chandigarh and Haryana – this final compilation in North India Wetlands Review 2017 series by SANDRP, highlights the plight of wetlands, lakes and water bodies in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and National Capital Region.

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Dams · Wetlands

Haryana Wetlands Review 2017: Urbanization Taking Over Basai Wetland

All through 2017, Basai Wetland has been in news following Haryana Government plan to build a Construction and Demolition (C&D) plant in its close proximity. Activists, Birders left no stone unturned to oppose the plant. They approached National Green Tribunal (NGT) and even wrote to Haryana State Government to identity it as important wetland. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) also blamed Haryana Government for being negligent towards the cause of wetlands and asked it to give Basai legal protection by declaring it a protected wetland. All these efforts went futile and in sad turn of events, NGT, on 10 January 2018 revoked its stay over construction of the C&D plant thus closing the doors of hope for Basai wetlands and dependent eco-system.

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