Thiruvananthapuram

Wetland rules: govt. has to respond fast

The new LDF government, to be sworn in shortly, will have to race against time to formulate and submit its response to the draft wetlands rules issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

The deadline for submitting objections and suggestions to the draft rules is May 31, giving the government only a few days since its formation to prepare its response and communicate it to the Centre.

Experts feel that the LDF partners, having committed themselves to an environment-friendly approach to development, are bound to ensure that the new rules do not impede the protection and management of wetlands.

Issued by MoEFCC on March 31, the draft Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016, have invited flak from environmental activists in Kerala who feel that it has diluted regulations and failed to involve stakeholder communities. “It is a watered down version of the earlier rules issued in 2010, which itself was inadequate for the management of wetlands,” says Latha Anantha, Director, River Research Centre, and a campaigner for wetland conservation.

“There is no mention of community involvement and the Central government has delinked itself of the responsibility of conservation and management of wetlands and transferred it to the States without even ensuring a compliance mechanism.”

Kerala had objected to the earlier version of the wetland rules issued in 2010, demanding the right to formulate its own rules and regulations in accordance with a national policy framework.

Experts feel that the new rules had diluted the prohibited and restricted activities, paving the way for large-scale conversion of wetlands which come in the way of development projects. The confusion of the applicability of both the wetland rules and CRZ norms in some wetlands in the State and the absence of an appellate body and State wetland policy have also led to concern. The composition of the State Wetland Authority Kerala as mandated by the Centre has come in for criticism. Terming it a bureaucratic, top-down mechanism, Dr. Latha said community leaders and elected representatives should be included in the authority. The government should not be the sole authority to notify and manage a wetland, she feels.

Apart from the three Ramsar sites in Kerala, namely Sasthamcotta, Ashtamudi and Vembanad, the State has applied to the Centre for notification of the Vellayani, Peruvannamuzhi, Pazhassi, and Karappuzha wetlands. A wetland atlas prepared by the Centre for Earth Science Studies and other agencies is awaiting official approval.

“The government response to the draft wetland rules will be a litmus test of its commitment to the environment,” says an official.


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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 2:46:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/wetland-rules-govt-has-to-respond-fast/article8628355.ece

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