Construction on the Yamuna floodplains by Art of Living Foundation

Spotlight: New legislation threatens India’s already endangered wetlands

This March, the central government set the ball rolling on a new set of rules intended, supposedly, to protect India’s wetlands. In this special feature, we present articles that look at the state of wetlands, and critically examine the new legislation, which many fear is a case of the cure being worse than the disease.

New conservation rules may soon apply to wetlands. What are they?
The Indian Express
The Draft Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016, which seek to replace the older Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010… One of the reasons cited for bringing in the new Rules has been ineffective implementation of the 2010 Rules. The draft 2016 Rules seek to decentralise wetlands management to states, with the Centre having a say only in “exceptional cases” — a provision that could potentially weaken conservation efforts in these eco-sensitive zones.

Centre’s new wetland protection rules are a joke
Nihar Gokhale, Catch News
While wetlands nationwide are threatened by encroachment and development, the Narendra Modi government’s draft rules show no indications of acknowledging this threat. When Chennai flooded, encroachment of wetlands (marshes, ponds) — with office buildings and houses — were a reason why rainwater submerged the city. While wetlands such as Mumbai’s Sewri are breeding grounds for the magnificent flamingoes. The draft rules, environmentalists say, reinforces the stereotype that governments see wetlands as wastelands.

Our Wetlands Under Threat: Diluted Rules Could Spell Disaster
Manon Verchot, The Quint
Roughly five percent of India’s land is made up of wetlands, but their ecological services span far beyond their geographical area. These ecosystems store and filter water, an important function at a time when India is experiencing one of its worst droughts in decades. They also buffer strong storms, lessening the damage to cities and homes… Now, a new draft of wetland protection regulations could make it easier for state governments across the country to ‘develop’ wetlands. If passed, the rules, proposed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, will place fewer restrictions on activities in wetlands, environmental lawyers and activists say.

A winged territory? Proposed Navi Mumbai airport site is home to 266 bird species
The Times of India
A baseline survey has shown that there are 266 bird species within 10km radius of the proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport site throughout the year… The survey states: “The proposed airport is coming in a high bird diversity area because of a mixture of habitats such as creeks, seashore, paddy fields, forest, inland wetlands and mangroves. Even the runways are proposed to be developed parallel to the creeks flowing adjacent to the airport area. The BNHS has concerns over human life and we want to avoid bird strikes at the aiport site. Therefore, attempts should be made to make the site and adjoining areas non-attractive to birds. However, there is need to provide conservation offsets by developing agency to establish bird sanctuaries on coasts and mangroves, away from the influence of air traffic.”

Greed and indifference are destroying east Kolkata’s wetlands
Soumya Sarkar,
olkata, like other cities in India and elsewhere in Asia, is expanding rapidly. Population in the metro and its suburbs rose by as much as 55% to 14 million in 2011 from nine million in 1981, according to the latest census. Amazingly, for a sprawling city of its size, the cost of sewage treatment is among the cheapest in the world owing to the wetlands on its eastern fringes… For all its usefulness, the Kolkata wetlands face a dwindling future from land sharks and unplanned, dirty industrialisation. Of the two, filling up the large fishponds, locally known as bheries, and building on them present the greater danger.

How Kerala is Destroying its Wetlands
Chitra KP, EPW
The amendment to the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2008 is one in a series of environmentally detrimental decisions that the Kerala government has taken. The state urgently needs to factor in ecological rationale in decision-making and conserve paddy fields and weltlands for the long term health of the state.

Missing the wetlands for the water
Neha Sinha, The Hindu
The government is all set to change the rules on wetlands. The Draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016, which will replace the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules of 2010, seek to give power to the States to decide what they must do with their wetlands. This includes deciding which wetlands should be protected and what activities should be allowed or regulated, while making affable calls for ‘sustainability’ and ‘ecosystem services’. On the face of it, this appears to favour decentralisation and federalism. But the peculiar reality of wetlands shows that local pulls and pressures are not the best determinants for their protection.

REJECT Draft Wetland Rules 2016: Designed to destroy wetlands
South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People
While the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change never implemented Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010, it has now brought out a new and seriously watered down Draft Wetland Rules 2016. The New Rules can jeopardise wetland conservation in the country and need to be rejected in entirety. Following is a submission made by SANDRP to the Secretary, MoEF and CC about the same.

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