Fight to save wetlands may get tougher

Citizens living around Kasavanahalli and Kaikondrahalli lakes are already pushed to the wall fighting to save the wetlands between the two water bodies even as an apartment complex, construction debris and sand filtering units are causing flooding in the area.

But their fight is expected to become tougher if the new Wetland Rules 2016, that many argue are weak in terms of regulating activities on wetlands, come into effect.

The draft was notified by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.

What has particularly drawn the ire of citizens is that the new draft rules do not specify regulating or prohibiting activities on wetlands.

While the Wetland Rules 2010 explicitly prohibit construction of any permanent structure, dumping of waste, debris, expansion of industry, the draft rules of 2016 call for ‘wise use’ of wetlands and leaves it for the States to decide what is ‘wise’. “From what we have seen, this will only open up the wetlands for exploitation. How can any serious policy on wetlands not bar dumping waste or construction activity in urban wetlands,” said Kshitij Urs of People’s Campaign for Right to Water (PCRW).

Lessons from Chennai

Another environmentalist S. Vishwanath said that conserving wetlands is very crucial for the city, at least as a buffer against floods. “The recent flood in Chennai was aggravated by encroachment of wetlands. Flood-prone regions in the city are mostly around lakes and encroached wetlands,” he said. The flooding of PESIT campus on Hosur Road, built near Rayasandra lake, in August 2014 was attributed to buildings coming up on the wetlands in the area.

“In the name of decentralisation, the regulatory infrastructure has been dismantled. Moreover, the 2010 rules had the provision of appeal in the National Green Tribunal. But this crucial clause is missing in the 2016 draft rules,” said Sampoorna Behura, a researcher from Reach Law, which recently organised a consultation on the draft rules.

At the meet, over 25 experts — both environmental and legal — from five southern States called for reworking the draft rules by taking the best of 2010 and 2016 rules. The results have been compiled and submitted in the form of objections to the draft rules.

Wetlands should

be notified

Conservationists are not for fixing a buffer zone for wetlands, like the National Green Tribunal has done for lakes.

They suggest using the Wetlands Atlas, mapped by ISRO, to notify wetlands in the upcoming Revised Master Plan 2033 and banning any development on these lands.

As of now, wetlands are neither notified nor put off limits for development. While most wetlands have been encroached, they argue that notification will help save wetlands in the peri-urban areas, which are seeing rapid development.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2021 4:51:43 AM |

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