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Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017
New Rules May Expand List Of Legal Activities
Seeking to protect over 2 lakh wetlands across the country , the Centre has come out with rules to identify and manage these ecologically fragile areas which play an important role in flood control, groundwater recharge, preserving plant varieties, supporting migratory birds and protecting coastlines.
The new rules, notified by the environment ministry on Tuesday , decentralise wetlands management by giving states powers to not only identify and notify wetlands within their jurisdictions but also keep a watch on prohibited activities.
It also indirectly widens the ambit of permitted activities by inserting the `wise use' principle, giving powers to state-level wetland authorities to decide what can be allowed in larger interest.
The notification says, “The wetlands shall be conserved and managed in accordance with the principle of `wise use' as determined by the Wetlands Authority .“
Though it lists prohibited activities, the `wise use' principle may invite criticism from environmentalists who had earlier objected to it when the ministry put out the draft rules in public domain in March last year.
Many conservationists had pointed out then that the `wise use' principle would lead to arbitrary decisions on the basis of selective understanding of critical issues around the ecologically fragile areas. The ministry , in its gazette notification, noted that the “suggestions and objections“ received in response to the draft rules were considered in consulta tion with state governments and UT administrations.
The Centre's role under the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017, will be restricted to monitoring its implementation by statesUTs, recommending trans-boundary wetlands for notification and reviewing integrated management of selected wetlands under the Ramsar Convention -an international arrangement to preserve identified wetlands.
Decentralisation of wetlands management is seen as the ministry's effort to sync environmental policies with the government's ease of doing business norms which are aimed at cutting delays in green clearances for development activities and supporting livelihood issues.
The new rules replace the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010, which had a provision for a super body to decide on all activities relating to wetlands.
The new rules make the provision of respective statelevel wetland authorities with the Centre having a limited role through a national wetlands committee, headed by the Union environment secretary as its chairperson.
Are `johads' wetlands?
The Times of India, Aug 03 2016
Are `johads' wetlands: Delhi to Centre
Responding to a National Green Tribunal or der on identifying and notify ing wetlands by all states and UTs, Delhi government has written to the environment ministry to clarify whether “johads“ are wetlands. Most waterbodies in the city's reve nue records are labelled jo hads. After the clarification, the government may consider notifying some johads as “wetlands“, which means they would be conserved and their status or land use cannot be changed.
The notification list will be prepared only once the ownership status of the water r bodies is verified, officials told TOI. As of now, the government has sent a list of five lakes -four under Delhi Development Authority , and one under MCD for notification to MoEFCC. These include Purana Qila lake near the zoo, Bhalswa, Hauz Khas in south Delhi and Naini lake in Model Town.
“Many johads have no water any more. They are differ ent from ponds or lakes, and are not mentioned as wetlands in the rules,“ said SD Singh, the nodal officer for waterbodies.
Johads are mainly check dams built for rainwater harvesting, many of them ancient, officials said.
“On a rough estimate, there are more than 800 water bodies in the city . Some of them are just depressions. But if revived they can recharge ground water levels, stop flooding and revive the entire ecological system of an area,“ added Singh.
The government is also considering a nodal agency for wetlands but the department hasn't been finalized yet. As of now waterbodies are scattered under DDA, MCD, Delhi Jal Board and others. Under the wetland rules 2010, several activities are restricted on wetlands including discharge of effluents, encroachment of the catchment, setting up industries, dumping of solid waste or dredging.
Meanwhile, the high level committee on waterbodies headed by PWD minister Satyendra Jain is planning to take up the revival of ten wetlands this monsoon mainly to ensure they are viable recharge points.
These include two wetlands in Dwarka sector 20 and sector 22, Najafgarh, Mundhela Khurd, Dhansa, Isapur, Malikpur and others.
These will be excavated for better recharge and cleared of solid waste.