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Why small wetlands of Uttarakhand are vanishing? Environment

Why small wetlands of Uttarakhand are vanishing? Environment

Relevance:

  • GS 3 || Environment || Environment & Ecology || Pollution

Why in news?

Uttarakhand killing its small wetland.

Background:

  • A decade ago, significant fish captures from Dehradun’s Niranjanpur wetland provided an additional source of income for the local community.
  • Now that the wetland has lost most of its fish and is dying, approximately 70% of Uttarakhand’s wetlands have been devastated owing to years of neglect.

Key Points:

  • Despite their large numbers and environmental benefits, they are underestimated because of their modest size, and many of these wetlands vanish before they are recognized or documented, as they are the least protected under most environmental legislation.
  • The 2.62-hectare Niranjanpur pond, which has been suffocated by Dehradun’s haphazard urbanization, is facing a similar destiny.

Wetland to wasteland:

  • Niranjanpur pond is located in a desirable Dehradun real estate region, and building waste is strewn haphazardly around the open pond.
  • Runoff water combines with the concrete and sweeps directly into the pond, producing siltation at the pond’s base.
  • Nutrient-rich wastewater from neighboring areas is channeled into the pond after rainfall. It promotes eutrophication (a thick overgrowth of water hyacinth and algae), which degrades the water quality and kills the fish.
  • The once-clear pond has turned green and is dwindling into a murky bog due to excessive eutrophication.
  • The Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017, made it unlawful to dispose of building and demolition waste within wetlands, but the illegal practices persist.
  • Niranjanpur pond has a well-defined boundary, allowing for encroachment.

Significance of the Niranjanpur wetland:

  • The Niranjanpur Wetland is home to a variety of birds, insects, tadpoles, small fish, and animals, and in the winter, it attracts everything from little local birds to large migratory species.
  • It also aids in groundwater recharge, with the common moorhen (jalmurgi) swimming in its water-pools and the black kite hunting across its waters..

Understanding all about Wetlands and related issues in India:

What is wetlands?

  • Wetlands are places that are permanently or temporarily flooded, including all coastlines with a depth of up to six meters at low tide.
  • It may be covered in freshwater, brackish water, or saline water. It is a form of water-flooded habitat that can be tidal or non-tidal.
  • They are known as “biological supermarkets” because they provide a large volume of food that attracts a wide range of animal species.

Types of wetlands:

  • Swamp, marsh, bog, and fen are the most common forms of wetlands. Mangrove forest, carr, pocosin, floodplains, mire, vernal pool, sink, peatlands, and others are among the sub-types.

Wetlands in India:

  • Most of the wetlands in India 555,557 out of a total of 757,060 wetlands are small wetlands.
  • These wetlands, irrespective of their size, support rich biodiversity, absorb carbon, replenish groundwater and prevent floods, small wetlands can have as much species diversity as large wetlands.

Wetlands have many functions:

  • Purification of water:They aid in the improvement of water quality by eliminating or retaining inorganic nutrients, as well as digesting organic wastes and lowering suspended nutrients.
  • Function in hydrological cycle:Wetlands play a vital part in the hydrologic cycle because they receive, store, and release water in a variety of ways.
  • Carbon and other nutrient processing: Wetlands are critical for the biogeochemical cycle, which encompasses the physical, chemical, and biological alteration of numerous nutrients in biota, soils, water, and air. They create the right conditions for nitrogen and phosphorus removal from surface water.
  • Shoreline stabilization: Because they are found on the edges of lakes, bays, rivers, and oceans, they safeguard the shorelines and stream banks from erosion. Wetland plants and trees use their roots to hold the soil together, absorb wave energy, and break up the movement of streams or currents.
  • Moderate the global climate: They contribute to moderate the global climate by storing carbon within their living and preserved plant biomass rather of releasing it into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
  • Deal with environmental issues: Wetlands aid in the reduction of environmental issues like algal blooms, dead zones, and fish kills, all of which are caused by nutrient overload.
  • Maintaining water supply: Wetlands aid in the maintenance of streamflow during dry periods and the replenishment of groundwater, thereby ensuring the availability of water.
  • Home for a variety of creatures: Wetlands provide home for a variety of creatures, including fish, mammals, and plants. Wetlands are vital to the survival of many plant and animal species. For many animal species, wetlands serve both primary habitats and seasonal habitats.
  • Flood prevention: They hold and slowly release surface water, rain, snowmelt, groundwater, and flooding due to their low topographic position. Wetland vegetation also slows the spread of floodwater over floodplains by obstructing its movement. Wetlands also keep agricultural land from becoming flooded.
  • Economic advantages: Wetlands are home to a variety of therapeutic plant species. In many regions, they are a source of lumber. Many species, such as blueberries, mints, and wild rice, are also grown in wetlands. Wetlands are vital to the fishing and shellfishing industries in many countries. Wetlands are also home to a variety of commercially valuable creatures.
  • Provide recreational, educational, research, and aesthetic opportunities: Wetlands serve as research and recreation areas. Many people who enjoy birdwatching or wildlife photography come to these areas to see a variety of animals.

Concerns that come with it:

  • Unplanned urbanization and encroachments: As a result of rising demands and widespread encroachment, urban wetlands are under increasing strain.
  • Increasing pollution: They are unable to clear up increasing levels of mercury, plastic, and other industrial pollutants, resulting in reports of groundwater pollution deteriorating.
  • Alien species introduce themselves into a wetland ecosystem, disrupting the natural ecological equilibrium. Exotic plant species such as water hyacinth and Salvinia, for example, have clogged streams and wiped out much native vegetation.
  • Changes in the climate: Increased air temperature, precipitation shifts, increased frequency of storms, droughts, and floods, as well as sea-level rise, could all have an impact on wetlands.
  • Wetlands are harmed when they are drained for agricultural or building purposes.

Conservation Efforts:

  • Ramsar Convention:
    • The Convention came in to force in 1975.
    • The Convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”.
  • Montreux Record:
    • Montreux Record is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.
    • Wetlands of India that are in Montreux Record: Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan) and Loktak Lake (Manipur).

**Chilka lake (Odisha) was placed in the record but was later removed from it.

Conservation Efforts by India:

  • National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems (NPCA):NPCA is a single conservation programme for both wetlands and lakes.It is a centrally sponsored scheme currently being implemented by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change.
  • Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules,2017:
    • Decentralise wetlands management by giving states powers to not only identify and notify wetlands within their jurisdictions but also keep a watch on prohibited activities.
    • It also indirectly widens the ambit of permitted activities in wetlands by inserting the `wise use’ principle, giving powers to state-level wetland authorities to decide what can be allowed in larger interest.
    • The Centre’s role will be restricted to monitoring its implementation by states UTs, recommending transboundary wetlands for notification and reviewing integrated management of selected wetlands under the Ramsar Convention.

Suggestions:

  • Digital inventories of all land records, including wetlands, are required.
  • Encroachment becomes harder if digitised data about wetlands and their buffer zones are available to planners and the general public.
  • By cutting off surplus nutrient supplies, the eutrophication of the wetland may be prevented.
  • De-siltation, weeding, and aeration into the water may all be done after that.
  • Development authorities must take over the resurrected wetland to a citizen’s organisation so that they may manage and benefit from it.

Mains oriented questions:

Why is there a need for wetlands conservation? What are the dangers that wetlands face? Propose wetlands-protection measures. (200 words)