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Indian Wetlands

      DOOMED TO DIE     

Indian Wetlands

Wetlands in India are dying at a frightening pace, says the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, (SACON), a Coimbatore-based research institute. We have lost almost 3 lakh (about 40 per cent) inland lakes and ponds in the past 10 years!

Wetlands. They are water bodies and marshes—found in mountains or river basins. In cities, valleys and deserts. India once had many, many of them. They were called by different names. Talab in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, pukur in West Bengal and Bihar; and eri in Tamil Nadu. People drank water from them and bred fish. They acted like water cushions after heavy downpours, and prevented floods. They also recharged the water table under the earth’s surface. So they were nurtured with care by those who lived around them.

But not any more. States now seem to consider these as “wastes” or non-productive units of land, says SACON.So they are either turned into dump yards to dispose sewage and solid waste; or they are filled up to make way for new constructions! The news is even worse than you think. A similar study was conducted 10 years ago by the Ahmedabad-based Space Application Centre (SAC). But it was done in a smaller scale, taking into account only the larger wetlands (covering 56 hectares or more). SACON spread its net much wider, and surveyed all wetlands from 2.25 ha to more in size. And still the total number recorded by SACON is less than that counted by SAC!

What price?

Consider the scale of the damage:

  • Ladakh has lost 87 per cent of its wetlands;
  • Madhya Pradesh has lost 35 to 86 per cent;
  • Surendranagar and Sabarkantha in Gujarat lost about 78 to 94 per cent, while in Jalore and Jodhpur of Rajasthan the loss is 95 and 89 per cent;
  • Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu lost about 90 per cent. Now let us take stock:
  • SACON says the demise of lakes has affected 69.25 to 73 lakh people, who used these for their various needs;
  • Ecosystem service value of a wetland, that is, its contribution in providing livelihood and sustaining the planet’s ecological balance is Rs 6.65 lakhs per hectare— almost seven times higher than that of forest (Rs 90, 000 per ha)!

 

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Doomed to Die