The government on Thursday notified new guidelines to protect wetlands by imposing fresh restrictions on setting up industries, pollutant discharge and construction.
It also decided to set up a specialised body for protection of these water bodies.
The environment ministry’s Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules identified any water body, expect main river channels, coastal areas and paddy fields, as wetlands, thus any commercial activity in these areas will now be difficult.
The new rules notified under the Environment Protection Act have divided the wetlands into two categories. First are the protected wetlands, which are notified under Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance and the ones falling in the notified eco-sensitive areas. No development activity will be allowed in these areas.
In the remaining wetlands, where reclamation of the wetland, setting up of a new industry or expansion of an existing industry, discharge of affluents and construction of permanent nature will not be allowed.
What the ministry has allowed is withdrawal of water, grazing, treatment of affluent discharged by industries, construction of boat jetties, aquaculture and repair of bridges.
For this, the project proponents will have to take permission of the proposed Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority to implement the rules. They can give permission if the same is necessary in public interest.
The new rules can create a fresh hurdle for many industrial projects, which have been planned in areas now categorised as wetlands.
The objective of the new rules is to protect the wetlands, one-third of which are already degraded. “This is for the first time that legally enforceable rules are being notified for such eco-sensitive areas,” environment minister Jairam Ramesh said.
The states will have to identify the wetlands falling within the definition of the rules within a year.
New rules divide the wetlands into two categories. First are the protected wetlands, where no activity will be allowed
In the remaining, reclamation of the wetland, setting a new industry or expanding an old one, discharge of affluents and construction won’t be allowed
But the ministry has allowed withdrawal of water, grazing, treatment of discharged affluents and repair of bridges
Ashtamudi Wetland (Kerala), Chilka Lake (Orissa), Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan), Pong Dam Lake (HP), Wular Lake (J&K) fall under the new rules.