BENGALURU: At least 16-17 per cent area of Karnataka are potential wetlands, but officially, the State hasn’t got a single wetland or Ramsar site. No initiative has been taken to mark out and declare wetlands, highlighting the negligible protection for Karnataka’s rich biodiversity. If wetlands or Ramsar sites are declared, they require stringent conservation measures.
This fact emerges in the report ‘Wetlands Ecosystem: A Sensitive Landscape of Unorganised Non-Administered Services’, which has been accepted by the European Journal of Applied Sciences and is to be released by February-end. The report was prepared by UV Singh, retired Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer and member of the National Green Tribunal Committee, and Deepthi Hebale, research scholar, Energy and Wetlands Research Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences, at Indian Institute of Science (IISc).
According to Wetland Rules 2017, wetlands and Ramsar sites (wetland sites designated to be of international importance under the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental environmental treaty by UNESCO, 1975) should be outside forest areas. However, in Karnataka, the state wetland committee is not even notified. Besides, government bodies have been unable to convince locals on what is permitted and prohibited, once an area is declared as wetlands.
Forest officials point out that in most cases, ministers and government departments are also not convinced on the ecological responsibilities that follow declaration of rivers, lakes and sites as wetlands. “At present, there are 41 Ramsar notified wetlands in India. (But) There is no notified wetland or Ramsar wetland in Karnataka as on date. The need of the hour is to introduce panel provisions with Institutional authority in the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017,” the report states.
‘8 wetland sites proposed’
Officials also say that they had proposed eight sites in Karnataka to be declared as wetlands, and Ranganthittu in Mandya as a Ramsar site. “Due to lack of coordination among all departments and the inability to get assurances from other stakeholders on ensuring there will be no harm in future to the declared sites, the state has been unable to get one. Now we are proposing to the Centre that the decision to identify, declare and protect wetlands rests with the Minor Irrigation department, as most of the water bodies are now under its control,” said a forest official.
Singh said there is a provision for constitution of a district level authority, which shall be made under the rules, with adequate powers for administration and conservation. But this has not been done in Karnataka. Since any land outside forest area is with the revenue department, district commissioners play a major role in chalking out proposals and sending them to the state wetland committee.