Wetlands waiting to be recognised

Environment matters

An environmentalist from World Wild Fund (WWF) claims that the new eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of only 100 metres at some places declared for the Okhla Bird Sanctuary (OBS) is the best decision for the moment, considering the need for development.

“The government has not been proactive in regulation of the wetlands and its protection. And now after sanctioning land to buyers one cannot retract. The OBS case can be taken as a learning experience for other such cases still pending to be recognised,” says Asghar Nawab, Senior manager biodiversity WWF.

Nawab says eco-sensitive zone of 10 km earlier proposed was ‘whimsical’ and not practically possible. An ESZ of one to two kilometres is enough to sustain a protected area. “If the government had demarcated a viable ESZ beforehand then the problem for builders building so close to the sanctuary would not have arisen,” he says.

WWF took Metrolife to Surajpur wetland which is much smaller than OBS and houses 200 species of birds, mostly resident ones. The wetland is 308 hectares, and existing since 2010. It is mainly rain-fed with other sources for water recharge like Hawaliya drain which is attached to Hindon river and Tilapta irrigational canal, situated in Dadri Tehsil of the district Gautam Buddh Nagar. “The area still has no ESZ recognised,” says Nawab.

He tells Metrolife, “Migration of birds suffering due to the constructions may not be true, because migration varies every year due to various reasons. There are associated problems of pollution and noise disturbing the birds but I think the government has taken a middle path to this problem.”

Senior programme manager for water management at Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), Sushmita Sengupta, says, “It shows the weakness in the wetland rules.”

According to the Sengupta, the wetland which is part of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary was never recognised under the wetland rule and hence could not be saved.  Under the wetland rule 2010 setting up of new industries and expansion on existing industries
is prohibited. A similar situation took place in 2012 with the Bil Akbarpur wetland where private builder, Ansal API had started their housing project, violating green clearances. Bil Akbarpur then was not recognised as a wetland under the wetland rule.

Another crucial case is of construction on floodplains and which the constructions in the northern region of OBS fall into.  This sanction of construction along ECZ to buyers takes us to past incident of construction of large complexes like Akshardham and Commonwealth Games Village on flood plains which led to the heavy waterlogging during August 2010 floods.

The floodwaters of the Yamuna that were released from Haryana were blocked by Akshardham and Games Village both, leading to stagnant water in eastern regions of Delhi and epidemic rise of dengue in the city.

Manoj Mishra environmentalist of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan says, “All the constructions that fall along the Delhi Noida expressway are in the floodplains and are under danger in case of floods. Reducing the range of ESZ around OBS could lead to the same situation as in Akshardham. Then too, the Supreme Court had said that the additional construction of embankments along flood plain will prevent water from stagnating. But it is scientifically not possible.”


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