Draft wetlands rules draw flak from experts

Draft rules are inept and the process is Sisyphean, say scientists of Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology & Environment.

Published: 13th June 2016 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th June 2016 06:00 AM   |  A+A-

KOCHI: Experts on wetland conservation have dubbed the Draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016, brought in by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), as ineffective for being ambiguous and lacking in suggestions for wetland conservation.

“The draft rules are inept and the process is Sisyphean. We fear that, it can jeopardise the conservation of the country’s wetlands  if implemented,” said the scientists of Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), a non-profit organisation striving to conserve biodiversity, in a letter to Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. It was pointed out that the draft rules focused only on the powers and responsibilities of the state governments and the Wetland Authority functioning under them, while the Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority had been completely  done away with. Even though it might appear that the move was part of the decentralisation process, the experts did not subscribe to the view.

Draft Wetlands.jpg“The main problem with the draft rules is that the Central government has absolved itself of all responsibility in the conservation of the wetlands. As a signatory of the Ramsar Convention, the Union government should take an active role in the conservation and ensure ‘prudent use’ of wetlands to accomplish the Constitutional responsibility entrusted with it. But the draft rules have hardly anything on the Centre’s role and do not suggest any firm action to protect, conserve and restore the country’s wetlands,” said Dr Priyadarsanan Dharmarajan of ‘ATREE’.

According to him, Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008, had more teeth in terms of protecting and conserving the wetlands. “If these rules were indeed implemented, stringent laws like the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008, will be nullified and we will lose effective laws against issues like reclamation and dredging,” Dr Priyadarsanan  added.   Similarly, environmentalists from across the country had come out against the ambiguous terminology and the lack of set criteria in the draft rules for identifying the wetlands.  An environmentalist, who asked not to be named,  said the rule which mandates the setting up of a state-level Wetland Authority headed by the Chief Minister and having 10 Secretary-level officers as its members is unheard of and smacks of foul play in the top echelons.

Airing concerns

The scientists of Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment have dubbed the Draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016, as ineffective for being ambiguous and lacking in suggestions for wetland conservation.

If implemented, the draft rules can jeopardise the conservation of the country’s wetlands, subject experts said.

It is pointed out that the draft rules focused only on the powers and responsibilities of the state governments and the Wetland Authority functioning under them, while the Central Wetlands Regulatory Authority had been completely done away with.

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