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22nd July 2023 (8 Topics)

Importance of Wetland Conservation

Context

The recent Delhi floods are and urgent indication to improve the city’s drainage systems. They also point to Delhi’s diminishing natural line of defence — its water bodies and wetlands — against such hazards, without which the river cannot drain its water naturally.

What are wetlands?

  • India’s Wetland Rules 2017define wetlands areas of marsh, fen, peat land or water, including lakes/ponds, oxbow lakes, riverine wetlands, tanks, lagoons and mangroves, performing critical ecological functions for wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge, carbon storage and water regulation.
    • These ecosystems exist as mangroves, marshes, peatlands, ponds, lakes, reservoirs, floodplains, and deltas. 
    • Many Indian cities are endowed with wetlands, such as Kolkata (East Kolkata Wetlands), Mumbai (mangroves), Chennai (Adyar flood plains) and Guwahati (Deepor Beel Lake).

India has over 757000 wetlands which cover 15.3 million hectares or about 4.7% of the geographical area of the country. 

Benefits of Wetlands

  • Climate resilience: Wetlands are crucial to our defence against climate change.
  • Carbon storage: With their thick canopies and aerial roots (especially mangroves), wetland floral species have an immense capacity to store carbon.
  • Buffer: They act as buffers against storms, prevent flooding, control erosion, and store and purify water.
  • Biodiversity hotspots: They also serve as biodiversity hotspots.
  • Tangible benefits: They have tangible environmental and economic benefits through flood control, fish production and the treatment of wastewater (such as sewage). 

Threats to Wetlands

Impact

  • Encroachment on wetlands in the form of haphazard real-estate development.
  • The disposal of untreated sewage.
  • Climate Change
  • Lack of proper classification and demarcation of wetlands
  • Immeasurable destruction: The collapse of wetlands can expose cities to cyclones.
  • Threat to species: Wetlands are home to several aquatic and terrestrial species and microorganisms. Due to threatened wetland, the species that depend on them are also lost. 
  • They have negative impacts on water quality, nutrient cycling, and climate regulation. 

Government Initiatives to conserve wetland

  • Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010: In 2016, the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010 was bought under the umbrella of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986.
  • Wetland management: In January 2021, the National Mission for Clean Ganga formulated a local stakeholders-focused toolkit for wetland management in cities.
  • Census of waterbodies: The Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation launched the census of waterbodies in 2018-19, published as a Census Reportof pan-India waterbodies.
    • Out of the enumerated 24,24,540 water bodies, 97.1 percent (23,55,055) are in rural areas, while 2.9 percent (69,485) are in urban areas.
  • Amrit Sarovar Mission: The Government of India launched the mission in 2022. Under the Mission, 75 water bodies will be developed and rejuvenated in each district of the country as a part of the celebration of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.

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