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HindustanTimes Wed,24 Sep 2014

Nature conserving its best far away from crowded cities

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 05, 2013
First Published: 19:49 IST(5/6/2013) | Last Updated: 11:07 IST(7/6/2013)

India presents a unique environmental contrast: while the landscape in fast-growing cities is crumbling under human pressure, the Himalayas and the coastal areas are conserving the nature's best assets, amid a significant increase in the mangrove cover along coasts.

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More than 4,699 high altitude Himalayan lakes in various states play an important role in conserving the local ecology while providing economic avenues for the local residents.

According to the National Wetland Inventory and Assessment released on Wednesday, Jammu and Kashmir has the maximum number of 2,104 lakes, followed by 1,672 in Arunachal Pradesh and 534 in Sikkim, with areas between 3 and 1.26 lakh hectares.

The areas of these lakes vary---swelling in summers and shrinking in winters. However, the assessment fails to provide information about changes in the sizes of these lakes over the years, key to analysing the impact of climate change on these water bodies.

Towards the south, the country's mangrove cover, which is key to protecting coastal areas from high tides, has grown by 10% between 1989-92 and 2004-07. 

"The government has worked on improving the mangrove cover after 2004 Tsunami and it has yielded some good results," said planning commission member in-charge of environment K Kasturirangan.

The data released on Wednesday also shows the coral reef area in coastal areas increased by 5% during the period. The coral reef is under threat because of acidification of sea water caused by the climate change.

The discovery of 175 new plant species and a few animal species in 2012 also spread cheer among environmentalists.

But the environment ministry has failed to mention species like Great Indian Bustard, Snow Leopard or Hornbills, which are on the verge of extinction in India because of habitat loss.

The ministry also did not offer any explanation for rising air pollution in Indian cities, high water contamination and indiscriminate mining resulting in destruction of one of the finest forests of India.


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