Wetlands are critical part of hydrological systems. They provide multiple ecological services to people living in proximal areas. The invisible contribution of wetlands in saturating aquifers and checking groundwater depletion is essential given the growing water scarcity. Additionally, wetlands are home to a variety of plants and animals species making them fully functional and self-sustaining eco-system. Sadly, despite the environmental significance and associated support services, wetlands have been subjected to degradation for past many decades.
I was standing in a waste dump, with pigs, garbage and dumped clothes all around me when Mr. Shailendra Patel told me to take off my shoes.
Just a few steps ahead of me was a miracle.
In the midst of the dump, Mr. Patel went down to a sparkling spring of clear water and kneeled down. This was a living stream in the heart of Pune city, with “development” all around, with a sewage carrying nallah flowing right next to it. Crystal clear water gushed out of rock crevices, there was a small sandy pool with tiny fish, water skaters and a desolate looking statue of a jaldevata on a stone ledge.
Mr. Patel talked with ladies with their washing loads who came to the spring, with school children running past, late for the school, with construction workers brushing their teeth nonchalantly next to the spring. The problem was he could not talk with the people who stayed in huge apartment complexes right next to the spring. They find the place too filthy, despite the fact that the tankers that supply water to complexes fill up from springs like these.
One more problem was that the Pune city does not recognise existence of such springs and the City Development Plan has not marked this as a spring or stream. It is up for grabs. A building complex will be built over this at any time.
This led me thinking, how does a city recognise & protect living streams and springs? How can we make the city development plan leave them out of development activities? Are there examples where this happened somewhere? Continue reading ““Streams don’t like to be in Channels” Interview: Stream Restoration, Austin Watershed Protection Department”
“I swam in the Barton Springs 20 years back. Austin saw explosive growth in these years and is one of the fastest growing cities in the US currently. I can still swim in the Barton Springs. I think this is the single biggest contribution of the Watershed Protection Department.”-Denise Delaney, Environment Program Coordinator, Watershed Protection Department, Austin, Texas.
When I came into Austin, the state Capital of Texas, Indian rivers were firmly on the mind. Pune River Restoration Plan was kicking up. The legal battle against a road inside the Pune riverbed was getting a favourable order from NGT. People of Delhi were fighting their long-drawn battle for protecting the floodplains of Yamuna. A huge People’s rally was held in Mumbai to protect the Dahisar River, which to some would appear beyond redemption. Bangalore Lakes were on fire again. People are looking for solutions, but transparent responsive governance around rivers seems like the biggest missing piece in the puzzle. Continue reading “Watershed Protection in Austin: Governance structures we can learn from”