Wetlands will stay vulnerable unless govt notifies all of them: Experts - Hindustan Times
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Wetlands will stay vulnerable unless govt notifies all of them: Experts

ByJayashree Nandi, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Feb 05, 2022 07:28 AM IST

Around 1342 natural and man-made wetlands have disappeared between 2007 and 2018 when mapping was done by ISRO using Resourcesat-2/2A, LISS-III sensor data.

Wetlands in the country will continue to remain vulnerable to degradation unless the government notifies all of them, say experts. A wetland atlas prepared by the Space Applications Centre of Indian Space Research Organisation and released earlier this week said there are 2.3 lakh man-made and natural wetlands across the country.

The Centre has released <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>1051.92 crores for conservation 160 wetlands since 2017 under the National Plan for conservation of Aquatic Eco-Systems.(AFP)
The Centre has released 1051.92 crores for conservation 160 wetlands since 2017 under the National Plan for conservation of Aquatic Eco-Systems.(AFP)

Around 1342 natural and man-made wetlands have disappeared between 2007 and 2018 when mapping was done by ISRO using Resourcesat-2/2A, LISS-III sensor data. Out of these 1342, 240 natural and 887 man-made inland wetlands, covering an area of 20354 ha and 65 natural coastal wetlands and 147 man-made coastal wetlands covering an area of 4935 ha disappeared. New wetlands have been added mainly in the man-made category .

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But most wetlands in India continue to remain vulnerable to degradation and land use change because states haven’t notified them, environment ministry officials said. As per Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 all states and UTs should have prepared a list of wetlands to be notified, within six months from the date of publication of the rules.

“Different states are in different stages of identifying wetlands. They will identify wetlands and document who has the land rights. Is it on private land? Those rights will have to be considered and settled. A draft notification will then have to be prepared by the states and public comments sought. We have been reminding states again and again to begin the process. Goa, I know has notified 12 water bodies; Uttar Pradesh has notified only 1 or 2 but they have wetlands recognised in land records,” said a senior environment ministry official who asked not to be named.

“The funds under the National Plan for conservation of Aquatic Eco-Systems (NPCA) have been so far given for conservation of 160 wetlands identified by states. the Supreme Court, in its 2017 judgement in MK Balakrishnan Vs Union of India case has clearly stated that over 2 lakh wetlands mapped by Centre should be conserved under Rule 4 of the Wetlands Rules. So, there is protection to all wetlands, even those not notified,” added the official.

Rule 4 of Wetlands Rule 2017 states that wetlands shall be conserved and managed in accordance with the principle of “wise use” as determined by the Wetlands Authority. Conversion for non-wetland uses including encroachment of any kind; setting up of any industry; and expansion of existing industries etc are prohibited.

The Centre has released 1051.92 crores for conservation 160 wetlands since 2017 under the National Plan for conservation of Aquatic Eco-Systems (NPCA) and around 125 crores has been released for 65 other wetlands since 2017 according to the environment ministry’s response to a question in parliament on February 3.

“The worry is that even wetlands notified under the Ramsar Convention have very little protection unless they are located in a protected area. Funding remains for a select few wetlands as the reply in Parliament shows. All wetlands will have to be notified and a conservation plan is also needed for them. Under the wetland rules 2017 all powers of selecting and notifying wetlands is with states, not with the Centre. In a recent order in the national green tribunal the bench has ordered that wetlands be recognised in all district environmental plans,” said Ritwick Dutta, environmental lawyer.

“Satellite mapping exercises for wetlands should be reflected in the actual land record. Recent NGT order of Raja Muzaffar Bhatt says all district magistrates should include wetlands in district environment plans, and the 2017 SC court order in MK Balakrishnan asked for over 2 lakh wetlands found earlier in the ISRO Maps to be declared by state governments. Wetlands don’t always look like wetlands in hot summer months so it’s absolutely crucial to declare them, notify them and treat them as wetlands,” Neha Sinha, conservation biologist said, responding to the ISRO wetlands atlas.

“While the Central and State Governments take all possible steps for the preservation, conservation and restoration of water bodies (including lakes), developmental activities and anthropogenic pressures do affect water bodies,” the ministry said in its reply to the question on whether government has maintained any data on the decline of wetlands across the country.

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