The Delhi government’s newly set up Wetlands Authority, which will notify and conserve natural water bodies in the national capital, will start work with the restoration of the Tikri Khurd lake in outer Delhi’s Narela, which has been encroached upon over the last few years. The 23-member authority set up last month will function under the environment department. In its first meeting on April 25, the authority has asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which is the water body-owning agency in this case, to remove encroachments around the lake and submit a conservation plan. “The lake cuts through Tikri Khurd village and as reflected in the Google Earth images of 2012 and 2018, has been encroached upon with the passage of time. DDA has been asked to demarcate the area of the water body, fence its boundaries and take up beautification work,” said a senior Delhi government official. The National Green Tribunal in an August 2018 order had directed the Delhi government to set up the Wetland Authority and take up the restoration work at the lake. A Delhi resident had filed a plea in the Tribunal against construction activity around the water body, which hampered its flow and reduced its natural size. “It is an oxbow lake (a channel of the river Yamuna) spread over 8-10 hectares and a prominent water body in the village. Some people had constructed a wall across it, as it had shallow water. It is a welcome step that the authority will finally take up its conservation before it dies,” said Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan. Mishra had also written to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and lieutenant governor Anil Baijal last month to save the lake from drying up. DDA vice-chairman Tarun Kapoor, said there are some encroachments around the lake and landscaping work will be taken up soon. “We have asked our landscape department to prepare a plan for the water body. Our target is to ensure it has enough clean water and to develop it as a tourist spot,” said Kapoor. The Wetlands Authority headed by the Delhi chief secretary has directed all water body-owning agencies in the city to identify and demarcate such areas as per the National Wetland Atlas of Delhi, prepared by the union environment ministry in 2011. The authority includes members from various government agencies, civic bodies as well as experts. “A sub-committee headed by city’s divisional commissioner will carry out the demarcation work in terms of exact area, contours, dimension and site report. All the agencies have been asked to submit a report with a complete action plan of conservation and development for these water bodies within a month,” the official said. While the Delhi government has a list of around 900 water bodies in the city, experts said only less than half of these exist as of now. Manu Bhatnagar, principal director, Natural Heritage Division of INTACH and an expert member of the Wetlands Authority, said, only around 450 natural water bodies in form of johars, talabs, baolis and jheels remain at present, which need to be restored to recharge the depleting groundwater table in the city. “The water bodies will be notified as wetlands after the demarcation exercise is complete. The main priority is to protect these from further degeneration and use for recharging of groundwater. Once the areas are notified, it will be easy to monitor their conservation. Those with a larger area could be developed into biodiversity habitats,” said Bhatnagar. For instance, he said, the Tikri Khurd lake exists in the 1911 Survey of India map as well as on the Wetland Atlas. There are many other such water bodies, some of which have been encroached upon over the years, which need to be restored to save the city’s ecology.