Thirty-three Indian wetlands, including five each in Delhi and Rajasthan, face moderate to very high threat to their ecology, according to a report by the environment ministry. The report has been shared with states where these sites are located, said an official aware of the development.
The ministry said these wetlands require immediate attention and interventions, and has called wetland managers of these states to Delhi on December 20 for a one-day workshop to prepare integrated management plans.
According to the letter by Ravi Agrawal, additional secretary of ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) to environment department principal secretaries, the ministry has proposed to provide funds under the centrally-sponsored scheme of National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems (NPCA) to states for corrective action. HT has a copy of this letter.
“Of the identified wetlands taken up for study, there are about 30 which fall under the moderate to low ecosystem health and have moderate to very high threat. These wetlands require immediate attention and interventions,” the letter said.
The 33 critical wetlands are situated in 19 states, most in Delhi and Rajasthan.
According to the ecosystem health ranks and threat categories of wetlands, three Delhi wetlands – Bhalswa Lake, Smritivan Lake (Kondli Lake) and Smritivan Lake (Vasant Kunj Lake) – are in the high threat category and the remaining two – Sanjay and Hauz Khas – in the moderate threat category.
According to a Delhi government official, who was not willing to be named, said the city government set up a wetland development authority earlier this year for the preservation and restoration of wetlands and water. “Till last year, the responsibility of preservation and revival of wetlands was with multiple agencies such as Delhi Development Authority, Delhi Jal Board and Public Works Department. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in November 2018 ordered the government to expedite the process of setting up a central agency for better efficiency,” the officer said.
In Rajasthan, Sambhar Lake has very high threat, and four others – Mansagar, Pichola, Fateh Sagar and Udai Sagar – face moderate threat.
Rajasthan environment principal secretary Sreya Guha said four of the lakes mentioned in the list are under the local self government (LSG) department. “We will tell the LSG to nominate people for the workshop. For Sambhar, we will send DCF Jaipur,” she said, adding that the state government has already notified a authority for Sambhar lake.
The ministry has shared the wetland ecosystem health assessment report with the states. The report said the data on threats was organised into the following categories: physical regime change (adverse change in water quality and quantity, sediments and salinity); extraction (water, biota, soil and minerals); introduction (pollutants, invasive species); and structural modification of habitat (drainage, conversion into non-wetland use or encroachment).
The official quoted above said the entire process was steered by the wetlands division of the MoEFCC and implemented by the state governments in collaboration with knowledge partners such as Wetlands International South Asia (WISA), World Wide Fund for Nature-India, Chilika Development Authority, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), Environment Planning and Coordination Organisation (EPCO) and Geer Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation.
Wetlands have been given threat scores between .91 or above (for very high threat) and .30 or below (for very low).
The data on threat scores indicate that 11 wetlands are in very high threat category (A+ and A-), 17 in high threat category (B+ and B-), 25 in moderate threat category (C+ and C-) and 58 wetlands in Low threat category (D and E).
The official said water quantity and frequency, pollutants, drainage and encroachment were the major threats on which these sites scored high. “Wetlands located on the coast, semi-arid and North-east had a relatively higher proportion within very high and high threat category,” he added.
The ministry letter sent to states said a full-day workshop for preparation of integrated management plans would be held on December 20 in MoEFCC. The states have been asked to send wetland managers and representatives of state wetland authority for the workshop.
(With inputs from Abhishek Dey in New Delhi)
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