Selection of experts for SWAK panel draws flak

The constitution of the State Wetland Authority Kerala (SWAK) for the integrated management of wetlands in the State has led to scepticism from a section of officials and environmental activists who feel that the selection of experts for the panel had defeated the purpose of the exercise.

It was on December 17 that the Environment Department issued a gazette notification constituting the State authority under the Central Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010. The 11-member panel will be chaired by the Environment Minister, with the Principal Secretary (Environment) as convener and officials from the departments of Water Resources, Science and Technology, Local Self Government and Agriculture as ex-officio members.

The expert members include B.G. Sreedevi, Director, National Transportation Planning and Research Centre; S. Jain Mithra, Scientist, State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre; Rajesh R, Regional Director, Kerala Social Security Mission, and Beena K, Department of Zoology, Devaswom Board College, Sasthamkotta.

Interestingly, experts from the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM), Kerala State Biodiversity Board (KSBB) and Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), the three agencies that have the expertise and experience in wetland conservation and management have not been included in the authority. “In its present form, the State authority serves no purpose,’’ says V.S. Vijayan, former chairman, Kerala State Biodiversity Board. “Without the right kind of experts on board, it is ill-equipped for a proactive approach to conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. The government has taken a wrong step,” he said.

C.N. Mohanan, former scientist, CESS said, “This is a tragedy for the State with so many wetlands. Many of the so-called experts on the panel may not even have seen wetlands. The authority will be just another white elephant.”

SWAK will be responsible for the management and wise use of the three Ramsar sites in Kerala, namely Sasthamcotta and Ashtamudi lakes and the Vembanad Kole lands and wetlands including estuaries, coastal wetlands, mangrove forests and marshes. It will function as the State’s nodal agency for policy development, regulatory framework, integrated management, implementation of action plans, research, awareness creation and mobilisation of funds for wetland management.

“The government has made a joke of the authority,” says R. Sridhar, environmental activist representing the NGO Thanal. “It has demonstrated that it is not serious about or interested in conservation,” he said.

Experts point out that in any case, SWAK would serve a limited purpose as the State is yet to notify the wetlands and delineate their boundaries. A wetland atlas prepared by CESS, CWRDM and KFRI has not been approved by the government.

‘Many of the

so-called experts

on the panel may not even have

seen wetlands.’

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Printable version | May 25, 2022 4:05:56 am |