Scientists say they would need the help of aquatic plants and animals that once used to inhabit the Yamuna floodplains to fix the ecological damage caused by Art of Living’s three-day cultural festival in March year.
Aquatic plants, microbes and other small aquatic animals, including fish that once lived in the floodplains, would have to be introduced again to make the wetland functional just like before.
“As the flood plains were damaged by humans, we would just kick start the process of rehabilitation and then step aside and allow nature to take over. This process of healing would take around 10 years at least,” said A K Gosain one of the members of the National Green Tribunal-appointed panel.
It has been estimated that the ecology of more than 420 acres of floodplains on both banks of the Yamuna was adversely affected by the three-day event. The panel suggested that it would require more than Rs 42 crore to execute this plan.
The committee experts said at first they would have to ‘physically’ rehabilitate the network of wetlands and channels that were damaged and destroyed by the event. This would require huge desiltation and dredging.
The biological rehabilitation – the process to make the wetlands and channels ecologically functional once again – would have to be started simultaneously.
“For this purpose, we would need to introduce submerged and floating aquatic plants and the microbes and other small invertebrate communities that are associated with these ecosystems,” said another panel member.
Some of the microalgae, microbes and soil invertebrates have to be identified from surrounding areas. They would have to be cultured and multiplied and then introduced.
Once the aquatic vegetation is developed, aquatic animals, particularly fishes and other organisms, would have to be introduced. Once the plant animal communities are developed, the birds and other animal communities will follow as a part of the ecological succession.
“The physical and biological components of ecological rehabilitation of the site would cost around R 42 crore. In addition to this, there would be expenditure for the monitoring by a team of experts for 10 years and the cost of transportation of material outside the floodplain,” a panel expert told HT.
The treatment wetlands have to be developed into functional wetland ecosystems that purify Barapullah waste water before it enters into the main water course of the river and serve as a habitat for aquatic animals and plants.
The biological rehabilitation would be carried out by a multidisciplinary team of four experts assisted by a group of technical assistants and around 25 labourers.
The floodplains would have to be continuously monitored during the biological rehabilitation till they become fully functional.
The panel has suggested that the apportionment of ecological rehabilitation cost may be made between Art of Living and other agencies by the green tribunal.