Conservationists will move SC for protecting six more wetlands
Environment activists plan to move the Supreme Court against the National Green Tribunal (NGT)’s decision to not designate six low-lying areas in Surajpur as wetlands.
While deciding the case related to the preservation of Surajpur wetland, the NGT also took up the status of six other low-lying areas in the vicinity that the applicant had claimed were wetlands.
Activist Vikrant Tongad had filed the case in the NGT, and had marked six areas near the Surajpur wetland, claiming that these were part of the wetland’s connection channel.
However, according to the response from the Uttar Pradesh government, these do not fulfil the criteria of wetland, as specified under the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017.
The rules say a “wetland” is an area of marsh, fen, peatland or water; whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water, the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres.
“There is no revenue record to corroborate that the six low-lying areas are wetlands. In such a situation, it would not be appropriate to hold the same to be wetlands, in the absence of any relevant evidence on record,” the NGT order said.
Tongad said revenue records, which relate to land ownership, have nothing to do with the status and conservation of wetlands. Additionally, he said these were marked on an atlas as wetlands.
“Wetlands are marshy areas filled with water that can be evidently seen when one visits the area. Their protection does not have anything to do with land ownership and we will approach the Supreme Court regarding this,” Tongad said.
He added that the other wetlands are in the vicinity of the main Surajpur wetland and form a continuous channel that has been disturbed by a wall, which was erected around the reserve forest area of Surajpur. The protected area of Surajpur wetland is 360 hectares, with the main water body covering 60 hectares.
“Even the slightest construction activity can disturb wetlands and make them dry. That is what we are seeing in Surajpur and other parts of Noida. However, it is important to protect them as they are extremely important for groundwater recharge, which is a pressing concern in our district,” Tongad said.
The NGT ruling came even as the district administration has recently initiated the identification of wetlands that are over 2.5 hectares in area.
Officials have also said strict action will be taken against those found encroaching on wetlands. According to officials, there are 783 wetlands in the district, of which 41 are of over 2.5 hectares in size.
The department will prepare a management plan for wetlands and a list of activities that will be regulated and permitted in the notified area and its zone of influence.