Wetlands Overview 2019: North India – No Land for Wetlands

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. Despite the environmental significance and associated support services, wetlands have been subjected to degradation for past many decades.

As part of annual exercise, SANDRP is presenting overview on the status of wetlands over past one year. The overview focuses on incidents of abuse and threats to wetlands across the country. The report also highlights the details of central and state governments’ initiatives and administration actions taken aiming at wetlands protection. Apart from this, there is attempt to throw some light on judicial intervention and ongoing court cases regarding wetlands conservation.

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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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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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Dams · DRP News Bulletin

DRP News Bulletin 02 October 2017 (New Rules Disastrous For India’s Wetlands)

The wetlands are the hotspots of biodiversity, act as carbon sinks, act as buffers against floods and are essential for groundwater recharge. With groundwater reservoirs in the country heavily exploited, this last function has assumed greater importance. http://www.hindustantimes.com/environment/centre-notifies-wetland-rules-environmentalists-unhappy/story-3MoGp9D8eSzHI90zfOXWSO.html

Wetlands can be defined as lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water.

But they are threatened by reclamation and degradation due to activities like drainage and landfill, pollution, hydrological alteration (water withdrawal and changes in inflow and outflow), over-exploitation resulting in loss of biodiversity and disruption in ecosystem services provided by them.

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There are at least 115 wetlands that are officially identified by the central government and of those 26 are identified as wetlands of international importance under Ramsar Convention which is an international intergovernmental treaty for conservation of wetlands. India is a party to the treaty. http://www.livemint.com/Politics/y6Tr3tkrr3q28AmGKaBFII/Environment-ministry-notifies-new-wetland-rules.html

The Centre on September 26 notified a new set of rules under the head Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 replacing the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/new-wetland-conservation-rules-notified/article19779100.ece

It is worth to mention that under the 2010 rules, not a single water body was notified as a wetland over and above the ones already recognised as such by the Centre and the Ramsar Convention, defeating its purpose in a way. http://www.zeebiz.com/agencies/centre-notifies-new-rules-for-preservation-of-wetlands-26312

Similarly, despite country’s space agency ISRO had in 2011 mapped over two lakhs of wetlands across the country, the centre has, so far, notified only 115 wetlands and 63 lakes in 24 states and 2 UTs for conservation and management.

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