Don't ruin the oxygen, you'll lose the nutrients

Last Updated 12 April 2014, 20:01 IST

Wetlands (lakes) are very imortant as they may help in solving the water problems of Bangaloreans. According to experts 30-40 percent of Bangalore’s drinking water requirement is met by borewells, which are being recharged only through wetlands.

But present day engineers are undertaking works without clearly understanding the ecology of the lakes, which is worsening the lake crisis.

Wetlands include a wide range of aquatic habitats such as marsh, fen, peat land (open water), flowing water (rivers and streams) or static (lakes and ponds). These eco-systems are the transition zone between land and water and are ecologically important in relation to stability and biodiversity of a region.

According to ecologists, these ecosystems perform a vital function of uptaking nutrients and heavy metals and are aptly often referred to as the ‘kidneys of landscapes’. They help recharge groundwater aquifiers and stabilise shorelines. 

Wetlands are repository of rich diverse biodiversity and support food chain. They are like giant sponges, which help in slowing floodwaters, lowering flood heights, reducing shorelines and streambanking erosion. IISc ecology experts say that algae is the primary producer which synthesises carbon during photosynthesis and releases oxygen.

A wetland can be valued with presence of good fish, fodder, suitable water for agriculture, recharging groundwater, storm protection and removing nutrients.

Even in the light of these obvious advantages, there are a few problems. Wetland reliability borders between ecological strength and anthropogenic (human activities). Rapid dumping of solid waste, inflow of partial and untreated sewage generated have polluted water bodies. Encroachment is another major problem. 

The IISc experts say, for instance, that Jakkur lake can be made an ideal wetland with minimal intervention. There is a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) to let treated water into the lake. But if algae is introduced and properly harvested, water will then be free of nutrients and bacteria, making it suitable for drinking. This should be followed in all lakes.

Hyacinth should be cleared as it does not allow sunlight; also hyacinth-sewage should also be stopped. Engineers should understand how the lake works and then take up the task of improving wetlands. It is not an expensive affair.

The experts also list a few recommendations for effective wetland management. They are integration of different government agencies for effective implementation of activities related to restoration of wetlands, their sustainable utilisation and conservation; a national committee for lake and wetland reclamation, restoration and development could be set up to formulate a national policy to evolve strategies for their sustainable utilisation and conservation; constitution of regional wetland protection committees with the involvement of all stakeholders; a comprehensive plan should be prepared to study selective, representative wetlands in a phased manner to create database with regard to their present status, sustainable use, management and conservation and strategies formulated for their long-term management; regular monitoring of wetland ecosystems through the involvement of educational institutions and curriculum on development concerning protection of wetlands and ecosystem; mass awareness programme should be chalked out and implemented through government organisations and NGOs for spreading word on the importance of the lakes, wetlands, rivers and their role in the aquatic biodiversity and sustenance of human civilisation; lakes and ponds in each zilla panchayat limits should be identified and their streams recharged through people’s participation. 

They should be made aware of the significance of wetlands; fishermen's socio-economic aspects should be taken into consideration while formulating wetland policies.

(Published 12 April 2014, 20:01 IST)

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