HYDERABAD: Conservation of wetlands has received a short shrift from Telangana government. While the state government never misses an opportunity to boast about its Mission Kakatiya project of desiltation of irrigation tanks and lakes, it seems to have conveniently ignored conservation of wetland ecosystem for the sake of birds and other living organisms that thrive on it. To be precise, there is no State Wetlands Authority in Telangana yet.
It was in last year September, the Ministry of Environment and Forests had notified Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017. The rules had mandated constitution of State Wetlands Authority (SWA), with forest minister as Chairperson, Chief Secretary of state as Vice Chairperson and senior official from Environment department as Member Secretary apart from 14 ex-officio members and five experts.
The rules also mandated that this authority should prepare a list of all wetlands in the state within three months of publication of the Wetlands rules, prepare a list of wetlands to be notified by the state government within six months and develop a comprehensive digital inventory within one year, to be uploaded on the website of National Wetland Committee.
Unfortunately, the Environment, Forest, Science and Technology department of Telangana government which is responsible for notifying the SWA, is so lethargic in functioning that it has not even done its basic job even though it has been more than a year since notification of the Wetlands rules.Many other states have notified the SWA, including Telangana’s neighbouring states, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu which notified their SWA long back, in February and April respectively.
Importance of Wetlands rules
While wetlands that are located inside forest areas are protected by the forest department to an extent, those outside forests do not receive any special attention. There are numerous wetlands in the state, like the Ameenpur or Edulabad lake near Hyderabad that are home to a wide variety of birds and other fauna but do not receive any special attention from the government.
The Wetlands rules prohibit all damage-causing activities including the inflow of sewage, encroachment of these wetlands by real estate developers and others, dumping of waste and poaching. Not just this but the rules also make it mandatory for the SWA in each state to demarcate boundaries of wetlands.
What is a wetland?
A wetland, as per the Wetlands (Conservation & Management) rules, is “an area of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters, but does not include river channels, paddy fields, human-made water bodies/tanks specifically constructed for drinking water purposes and structures specifically constructed for aquaculture, salt production, recreation and irrigation purposes.”