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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

‘Mumbai has best and worst wetlands in Maharashtra’

mumbai Updated: Nov 24, 2019 01:30 IST
Hindustantimes
         

A country-wide wetland health report card found Mumbai has wetlands belonging to the best and worst categories. While Vihar Lake received an A+ rating, Powai Lake was rated D. Both wetlands are in Mumbai.

Earlier this year, the ministry of environment forests and climate change (MoEFCC) directed states to prepare a list of wetlands for priority restoration in the next five years. Altogether, 130 wetlands were identified across the country and the MoEFCC proposed the wetland health card on August 26.

Prepared by a number of agencies including Wetlands International, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation, Chilika Development Authority and WWF India, the wetland health report card is based on data acquired from the Union environment ministry.

HT has accessed the health card, which has eight categories (A+, A-, B+, B-, C+, C-, D and E) based on a rapid health assessment on four parameters – encroachments; hydrology (water quality and inflow and outflow conditions); biodiversity, and governance.

Explaining the spectrum spanned by the wetlands in Mumbai, Ritesh Kumar, director, Wetlands International (South Asia), said, “Vihar is in good condition as it is a protected area, but Powai needs urgent attention since it is an urban lake with water quality issues.”

In addition to Vihar and Powai Lakes, two proposed Ramsar sites, Nandur Madhyameshwar in Nashik (B-) and Lonar Crater Lake in Buldhana (B+) were also ranked. Other ranked wetlands in Maharashtra include Dhamapur Lake in Sindhudurg (C+), Ujni reservoir across Pune and Solapur district (C-), and Rankala Lake in Kolhapur district (C-).

“We cannot interpret wetland status for an entire state based on seven wetlands, but these seven proposed by Maharashtra seem to be doing better than other states in India,” said Kumar.

An MoEFCC official said that even if a wetland is in A+ category, states must develop a management plan to ensure its health is maintained. Similarly, D or E category wetlands must be restored on priority. “Based on the results, all states need to prepare a response strategy by December and start work on protection and restoration of wetlands. We are yet to see the final report,” said a senior MoEFCC official.

Even if a wetland is in A+ category, states need to develop a management plan to ensure its healthy quality is maintained. Similarly, D or E category has to be restored on priority, the official added.

Originated in 1860, the 135-hectare Vihar Lake is situated inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park while the 220-hectare Powai Lake is situated in Mumbai’s northern suburbs. While Vihar is located within the boundaries of a sanctuary, Powai is surrounded by encroachments, fallen prey to illegal fishing and high water pollution. “Vihar is in good condition as it is a protected area but Powai is under maximum stress in Maharashtra and needs urgent attention since it is an urban lake with water quality issues,” said Kumar pointing out that there were 7.5 lakh wetlands across India. “This is a preliminary list. The intent is to replicate these approaches for a more pan-India wetland restoration program.”