CHENNAI: Nearly two decades after Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary was designated as the lone Ramsar Site in Tamil Nadu, there is a renewed push from the current State government to get the coveted international recognition for 13 more important wetlands, for which proposal has been recently submitted to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
The Tamil Nadu Wetland Authority (TNWA) has been on mission mode ever since Chief Minister MK Stalin announced the Tamil Nadu Wetlands Mission providing a budgetary allocation of Rs 150 crore. Environment Secretary Supriya Sahu told TNIE that out of the 13 wetlands, the Pallikaranai marshland in Chennai and the Gulf of Mannar Marine Biosphere Reserve in Ramanathapuram are in advance stages of getting the recognition. “The proposal is currently with the Ramsar Secretariat in Switzerland. The State has already given an undertaking before the MoEFCC that all efforts will be taken to protect and conserve the wetlands once they are designated as Ramsar Sites,” Sahu said.
The senior bureaucrat also said Tamil Nadu has taken the lead in launching the wetlands mission. “Not many people, including government authorities, understand the importance of wetlands which unfortunately are most abused. Under the mission, we are giving additional impetus to urban wetlands.”
Deepak Srivastava, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Member Secretary of TNWA, said the National Atlas prepared by ISRO in 2011 proved that Tamil Nadu is a wetland-rich State. It has a whopping 43,916 wetlands, accounting for 6.92 per cent of its geographical area, as against the country’s 4.7 per cent. Despite this richness, it’s an intriguing fact that floods and droughts are becoming recurrent features. “When we do in-depth analysis of the reasons behind flooding, unplanned urbanisation in the past and loss of natural wetlands due to encroachments and land use changes come up as plausible causes,” he said.
Also, there is a misconception that once the wetlands are notified under Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 or designated as Ramsar site, it will adversely affect the traditional rights and privileges of the local communities, which is not true. “Only problematic and unsustainable development will be prohibited,” sources said.