Delhi agencies seek to delist 232 out of 1,045 waterbodies

Such requests are made to the Wetland Authority of Delhi owing to waterbodies drying up or being encroached upon; 15 agencies that own waterbodies around the city have made the request

May 14, 2023 01:14 am | Updated 01:14 am IST - New Delhi

Wetlands support a host of animal and plant life and are critically important for mitigation of urban flooding.

Wetlands support a host of animal and plant life and are critically important for mitigation of urban flooding. | Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO

The Wetland Authority of Delhi (WAD) has received requests to delete 232 waterbodies, i.e. 22.2% of the total 1,045, from its records, according to data accessed by The Hindu.

The requests have been made by some of the 16 agencies that own waterbodies in the city. Around the same time last year, the WAD had received requests to delete 214 waterbodies.

“An agency makes such a request on various grounds, including waterbodies being encroached upon or drying up,” an official source said, adding that the WAD is yet to act on the requests.

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has sought the deletion of 223 of the 822 waterbodies it owns. The urban body comes under the Central government and the Lieutenant-Governor of Delhi is its ex-officio chairperson.

According to the source, data from earlier surveys were used to arrive at 1,045 as the total number of waterbodies. The WAD has prepared ‘brief documents’ for 710 of them, while the rest are either encroached upon or their owners are yet to be identified or determined, according to official data.

Each ‘brief document’ contains important details of a waterbody, such as its boundaries as per accurate digital maps and ecological character description.

After scrutiny by a technical committee, waterbodies with ‘brief documents’ are notified as wetlands if they fit the definition. This gives waterbodies legal protection and also facilitates efforts to rejuvenate them. The government is also carrying out a ground truthing exercise, or a verification, of waterbodies.

Wetlands support a host of animal and plant life and are critically important for mitigation of urban flooding — a major issue in Delhi — as they can store excess water. They also help purify and store water, recharge groundwater, control erosion, and aid microclimate regulation.

‘Dip in numbers’

“According to a 1997 survey, Delhi had over 1,000 waterbodies, but it is now left with less than 700,” said Suresh Kumar Rohilla, programme lead at International Water Association.

Mr. Rohilla said that the Najafgarh lake was spread across 80 sq. km in 1883, as per records, but now it has shrunk to 5 sq. km.

“There used to be one or two waterbodies in each village, but most of them have now vanished mainly due to encroachments. The land mafia is very strong and the agencies owning the waterbodies are also not trying to reclaim the ones which have been encroached,” Mr. Rohilla said, adding that the government must act “before we lose them all”.

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