Wetlands

Uttar Pradesh Govt Builds University in Suraha Tal Wetlands

(Feature Image: Screen shot of video report showing boats plying inside flooded JNCU campus in Oct. 2019. Source: Balia Express)

In blatant defiance of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Wetlands (Conservation & Management) Rules, 2017, Suraha Tal Eco-Sensitive Zone Notification 2019, National Mission for Clean Ganga Notification 2016, the Uttar Pradesh State Government has allowed and funded construction of a college in core zone of Suraha Tal wetlands, a notified bird sanctuary in Balia District.

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Wetlands

Maharashtra Wetlands Overview 2021: Mumbai Civil Societies’ Untiring Efforts to Protect Wetlands, Mangroves

(Feature image source: FPJ https://www.freepressjournal.in/mumbai/navi-mumbai-nmmc-chief-writes-to-forest-department-to-take-action-if-any-destruction-found-in-two-wetlands-in-nerul)

Civil Society groups in Maharashtra and particularly in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai have been doing exemplary work protecting the wetlands and mangroves for past several years. In 2021 too, the citizens kept raising multiple issues impacting the threatened wetlands and mangroves. The year also saw some positive outcomes.

This report highlights the significant efforts by the civil society groups, relevant steps by the state government and judiciary during 2021. We have already published three part series on India wetlands overview 2021. Part 1 covers important reports on current situation of wetlands in India, part 2 carries relevant reports on governmental actions and part 3 deals with significant judicial decisions. On World Wetlands Day 2022, we also published a collection of positive actions for protection of wetlands in 2021. We had also earlier published the Maharashtra Wetlands Overview for 2020.[i]

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Wetlands

Top ten Judicial actions on India Wetlands-2021

Feature image: Deepor Beel boundaries still await proper demarcation (27 Dec. 2021) by G Plus.

This third part of Wetlands Overview 2021 provides details of top ten judicial interventions in India in 2021 regarding wetlands. The first part presented top ten stories about current situation of wetlands in the country and the second part covered top 10 actions by the state and central governments that affected the wetlands in positive and adverse manner. 

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Wetlands

Top ten India Wetlands stories about Govt actions in 2021

Feature image: UNDP mission to restore 9 wetlands in Andhra beings (The Hindu, 05 May 2021)

Here we highlight the top ten Wetlands India stories about Government actions in 2021 from media reports, including some positive and some adverse decisions taken by various state governments and centre. The first part has presented current situation of wetlands in the country through top 10 reports. The next part would present top 10 judicial interventions in India in 2021 regarding the wetlands.

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Wetlands

India’s Wetlands Overview 2021: Gross Misuse of even Ramsar sites

(Feature image:- Deepor Beel wetland area has been suffering from environmental degradation due to continuous encroachment and waste dumping. The Guwahati Municipality dump yard, located at Boragaon, lies in the eastern corner of Deepor Beel. Photo: Ritu Raj Konwar/Front Line)

Wetlands are important part of hydrological cycle and play critical role in water purification, climate moderation, biodiversity conservation and flood regulation apart from offering innumerable environmental services to aquatic, wildlife and human beings for which they are also referred as ‘kidneys of the earth’. There are more than 2 lakh wetlands in India covering nearly 4.6 per cent of its geographical area. Despite their essential services and significance, the already neglected wetlands eco-system have been facing multiple existential threats.

As part of its annual overview for 2021, SANDRP in three part series attempts to highlight the state of wetlands in India during past one year. This first part compiles the 10 top critical reports representing the present day status of wetlands across the country. The second part would cover various actions and initiative taken by the state governments and central government all through 2021 impacting the wetlands. The final part would deal with the judicial interventions on wetlands.

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Wetlands

Wetlands Overview 2020: Judiciary is active, but remains ineffective

The highlight of the overview of wetlands in India in 2020 here (keeping aside the Wetlands related developments in Maharashtra in 2020 and Positive wetlands related developments in 2020, on both these subjects we have published separate reports), is that the National Green Tribunal (NGT), various High Courts and even the Supreme Court have been quite active on wetlands front, but there is very little impact of this on the wetlands and their governance in India. This is basically because, and this is the second key highlight of this overview, the central and state governments have shown almost no interest, understanding or will to protect the wetlands. This is in spite of the huge number of new Indian wetlands brought under the Ramsar convention in 2020, since experience and also this overview shows that Ramsar convention does not seem to particularly help the fate of the wetlands. The third highlight of the overview is that there is a lot of civil society effort, both in terms of advocacy and work on ground for the protection of wetlands in India. In fact the legal action that we see in the NGT and Courts is largely due to their efforts. In fact whatever little positive developments we see here is coming from community and civil society efforts.

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Wetlands

Wetlands 2020: Positive Developments

Pondicherry Collector led the revival of over 300 waterbodies The then District Collector and present Secretary to the Chief Minister, A. Vikranth Raja, stepped in with the idea of digging into revenue records to locate the region’s traditional water bodies.  It all started with a query raised at the meeting. When someone asked if Karaikal had the capacity to store 7 tmcft of river water allotted by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, “the response from officials was an emphatic no,” says Selvaganesh, Assistant, District Collectorate of Karaikal.

In June 2019, in the tiny coastal enclave of Karaikal, administration officers brainstormed about putting in place a sustainable water resource management model for the town’s two lakh people. They found 549 ponds within a small territory spread over 157 sq. km. 40% of these water bodies were in various stages of extinction. Most of them turned out to be dumping yards.

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Wetlands

Maharashtra Wetlands Overview 2020

[The feature photo of Flamingos at NRI colony in Navi Mumbai above is by Vidyasagar Hariharan, from The Guardian Dated March 26, 2019.]

In 2020, Maharashtra has seen some interesting developments around wetlands, driven by initiatives by activists like D Stalin among many others, and at times supported by judiciary. After an example of some individuals’ courage to save an 80 ha of wetland, we look at state level wetlands issue, followed by some interesting developments around some specific wetlands like Dhamapur Lake (Sindhudurg dist) and Lonar (Buldana dist). Maharashtra govt claimed in High Court that in three districts of Nandurbar, Nagpur and Parbhani, there are no wetlands at all. The flip flops here is tragic as the ISRO report had shown over 2000 wetlands in these districts. Next is the Mumbai wetlands, Uran wetlands, Panje wetland and two other wetlands where CIDCO has been pushing real estate projects. The overview ends with some Supreme Court petitions. There is lot of action, but no very optimistic trends in spite of some individual actions and positive developments at some individual wetlands.

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Wetlands

World Wetlands Day 2020: Positive Stories from India

On February 2, the World Wetlands Day is celebrated globally. The theme of 2020 is Wetlands and Biodiversity to emphasize the critical roles the wetlands plays for wildlife, aquatic life, and native vegetation. They also play crucial role in harvesting rainwater, recharging groundwater, providing livelihoods, acting as carbon sinks and providing cushion against flash floods thus they hold immense significance in changing climate.

This compilation puts together some of the positive developments related to wetlands that took place in 2019. It also includes few individual initiatives of lakes and water bodies cleaning from greater Noida, Chennai and Udaipur. There have been some fruitful efforts by citizen and community groups in Maharashtra, Goa and Kerala.

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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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