A third of the ponds and tanks in the city could be in danger of disappearing, according to findings of a comprehensive mapping of the city's water bodies by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region-Environment Improve-ment Society (MMR-EIS).
The report found 36 of the 103 water bodies in the 'topmost category that need urgent attention' on parameters such as deterioration of water quality, embankment, encroachment, solid waste dumping and evaporation loss due to loss of green cover. "A score of nine and above means the water body is critically in need of intervention," the report read.
Water bodies such as lakes and ponds are perfect holding areas for surface run-off water during the monsoon, thereby reducing water logging and flooding. Rainwater also recharges ground water levels. Located in residential areas and near highways or major roads, water bodies are vital for Mumbai's ecology.
Environmentalists say classification of water bodies in the revised DP is imperative. "Water bodies if not preserved would have disastrous consequences for Mumbai," said environmentalist Stalin D of Vanashakti, a non-government organisation. Though the Environment Protection Act 1986 and River Act 1971 protect water bodies, and those involved in land filling can be booked on, they are not implemented.
Environmentalist Jagdish Gandhi who has an ongoing petition in the Bombay high court to declare all water bodies as protected, said, "I am sceptical that specific classification of water bodies in the revised DP will ensure their protection because despite open spaces being classified in the existing DP, they have been grabbed." The petition is up for hearing today. Gandhi said, "Once water bodies are declared natural monuments, they can't be touched."
Accessibility to water bodies is linked to their conservation. The report found 49 had restricted entry while 53 were open to the public. "Building walls around water bodies does not help as it removes the asset from public memory and no one will know what is happening," said Prasad Shetty, secretary, MMR-EIS.