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New state authority to turn tide for 76 wetlands in Pune district

Environmentalists hope better measures would make a big impact on this ecologically important factor.

pune Updated: Mar 08, 2018 15:30 IST
Ashish Phadnis
Ashish Phadnis
Hindustan Times, Pune
The Maharashtra state government has formed a 21-member wetland authority under environment minister Sudhir Mungantiwar in February 2018. Photo for representational purpose only. (HT FILE PHOTO)

After the formation of the Maharashtra state wetland authority, environmentalists hope to preserve wetlands, which they feel, are ecologically important factor as it play a key role in controlling erosion, providing a habitat for different species of plants and animals and also in filtering groundwater.

The state government formed 21-member wetland authority under environment minister Sudhir Mungantiwar in February 2018. The move comes after the Union ministry of environment, forest, climate change notified the wetland (conservation & management) rules, 2017, in September.

City’s environmentalists said they expect that strong measures are needed in protecting the wetlands.

“We have two main wetland areas – one is Ujani and second is Veer dam, Saswad. Both wetlands are under threat due to illegal sand mining. As fot the rivers Mula and Mutha, we have observed that the number of painted storks has gone down,” said ecologist Varun Kher, adding the new authority can prevent the destruction of wetlands.

In Pune district, there are 76 inland wetlands.

“Wetlands are water bodies with gentle slopes and shallow surfaces. Therefore, the dredging of rivers and lakes can also destroy wetland ecology. The forming of a wetland authority is good and we hope they would save the reducing wetlands before it’s too late,” he said.

Under the new rules, powers have been granted to the state government to protect and conserve wetlands. These rules call for setting up of a state wetland authority in every state and union territory to be headed by environment minister.

The experts who are part of the authority, include Dr Bharat Bhushan, head of the department, (environment), Yashada and Dr Himanshu Kulkarni of the advanced centre for water resources development and management are from Pune.

While Dr Bhushan refused to comment about the role of the authority until the first meeting takes place, Dr Kulkarni, who is known for groundwater studies, said that his role will be related to his field of expertise.

“It will be too early to speak about the role of the MSWA and will get a clear picture once few meetings with other members are held,” said Kulkarni.

Ornithologist and wildlife researcher Dharmaraj Patil also raised concerns about the drastic reduction of wetland ecology around Pune.

“Pashan lake was once a haven for many migratory birds, but the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), in their eagerness to beautify the lake, has sadly messed up the habitat for birds. Before, there were 300 species of birds one could see, now only half of the species can be seen here. The number of migratory birds has come down and we are heading towards a collapse of this lake,” said Dharmaraj.

“In the wetland ecosystem, plantation has to be reduced. They have planted exotic trees like the nilgiri which is completely wrong. Tall trees have become a deterrent for migratory birds. They require open land and grasslands. We expect the authority will come up with some firm measures and the administrative bodies won’t take decisions on their own,” he added.

First Published: Mar 08, 2018 15:25 IST