New Delhi, Jan 8 (PTI) The Ministry of Environment has notified the new Wetland Conservation Rules that prohibit setting up or expansion of industries, and disposal of construction and demolition waste within the wetlands. The ministry has also directed that each state and Union Territory will have to set up an authority that will define strategies for conservation and wise use of wetlands within their jurisdiction. “The authority shall prepare a list of all wetlands of the State or UT within three months from the date of publication of these rules, develop a comprehensive list of activities to be regulated and permitted within the notified wetlands and their zone of influence… “It shall recommend mechanisms for maintenance of ecological character through promotional activities for land within the boundary of notified wetlands,” the notification, issued on January 6, said. It also directed the authority, to be headed by the state or UT’s environment minister, to undertake measures for enhancing awareness among stakeholders and local communities on values and functions of wetland. A wetland is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, and it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem. The new Rules also prohibit the conversion for non-wetland uses including encroachment of any kind, besides setting up of any industry and expansion of existing industries within the notified wetlands.
It prohibited manufacture, handling, storage or disposal of construction and demolition waste — covered under the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016 — hazardous substances, electronic waste — covered under the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 — solid waste dumping and discharge of untreated wastes and effluent from industries, cities, towns, villages and other human settlements, within such bodies. The authority will also include one expert each in the fields of wetland ecology, hydrology, fisheries, landscape planning and socioeconomics to be nominated by the state government.
The ministry said it has created a web portal for sharing information regarding implementation of Wetlands Rules where the central government, state governments and UTs are required to upload all relevant information and documents pertaining to wetlands in their jurisdiction. “States/UTs are encouraged to develop their own portals and hyperlink the same to the national portal. They are also encouraged to upload other project documents and publications to enable sharing and exchanging good practices related to wetlands management in general, and implementation of regulatory framework in particular.”In September last year, the ministry had announced that more than 100 wetlands, essential for combating land degradation, have been identified in India and will be restored in the next five years. Speaking at the 14th session of the Conference of Parties to United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) (COP 14), Manju Pandey, Joint Secretary, Environment Ministry, had said that there are over 100 wetlands across the country under pollution stress and tourism pressure. “We are mostly unaware of the size and location of the wetlands. So we have asked the states to prepare documents in this regard so that we can work for wetlands in the next five years,” she had said. At the same event, Suresh Babu, Director of Rivers, Wetlands and Water Policy at WWF India, had emphasised on the importance of wetlands in combating desertification saying, “Wetlands are disappearing three times faster than forests and half of India’s rivers are water stressed. We need to reverse this trend to fight land degradation.