Environment department proposes to set up body to protect Delhi’s wetlands
The Delhi government’ environment department proposes to set up a wetland development authority — a body to look after the preservation and revival of water bodies in the national Capital. Several ponds, johars, baolis and lakes in the city have either been encroached or been turned into dump yards.
Currently, the responsibility of preserving and restoring wetlands in the city lies with several agencies, including the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Public Works Department (PWD) and the municipal corporations.
The environment and forest department is preparing a proposal, which will be introduced before the cabinet. Delhi environment minister Imran Hussain had in a meeting asked the department to come up with the proposal at the earliest.
“The plan for setting up a dedicated authority has been on the cards for some time. A meeting was held on the matter and a proposal is in the works. The work is to be fast-tracked so that by summer, at least some are revived,” said a senior Delhi government official.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had in a November 2018 order asked the government to expedite the setting up of the authority, as revival of water bodies was necessary to recharge groundwater. The move had come after the union environment ministry had in September 2018 notified the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 which stipulate setting up of a wetland authority in all states and union territories.
“Monitoring of wetlands was difficult due to multiplicity of agencies,” the official said. Many water bodies such as johars and ponds are located across the urban-rural localities and villages on the fringe of the city.
However, experts claimed that of the over 1,000 water bodies across Delhi, more than half have dried up or have been converted into dumpyards.
“It is a welcome step. However, it must start with demarcating the wetland area, as most of them, including those around the Yamuna, have vanished or become polluted because of unchecked encroachment. Those in villages and illegal colonies, for lack of proper drainage system, have turned into dumpyards,” said Faiyaz A Khudsar, scientist in-charge of the Yamuna Biodiversity Park.
He said that for any city wetland is a lifeline, as they help in maintaining the ecological flow of the river, recharge groundwater and aquifers as well as serve as habitat for organisms, including migratory birds.
To deal with water scarcity and recharge groundwater, the Delhi government had announced in December 2018, that it will revive 159 lakes and water bodies in the city. It had sanctioned Rs 77 crore for the creation of two lakes in Rohini and Nilothi.