Underlining importance of wetlands not only as source of water but also as ecosystems that prevent land degradation and desertification, the Centre has identified 130 wetlands for priority restoration in the next five years and asked states to submit their respective integrated management plan by October 15.
The highest number of such identified wetlands are in Uttar Pradesh (16) followed by Madhya Pradesh (13), Jammu & Kashmir (12), Gujarat (8), Karnataka (7) and West Bengal (6).
Each of these wetlands will be restored under a comprehensive scheme of the National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems (NPCA) for conservation and restoration of wetlands and lakes.
Discussing the issue on sidelines of the ongoing UN Conference on combating desertification (COP14) at Greater Noida, environment ministry officials said that a concept of ‘Wetland Health Card’ would be introduced to monitor the entire ecosystem based on multiple parameters.
Manju Pandey, joint secretary in environment ministry, told the gathering at India pavilion on Thursday that since community engagement was key to conserve wetlands and other water bodies, the ministry would form ‘Wetland Mitras’ (group of self-motivated individuals) for taking care of the identified wetlands across the country.
She said nodal officers have been identified for each of these wetlands.
The country’s space agency ISRO had in 2011 come out with a national wetlands atlas on the basis of satellite image, mapping over two lakh wetlands covering around 4.63% of the total geographic area of India.
The wetlands are actually land areas covered by water, either temporarily\seasonally or permanently. Marsh, fen and peatland come under this category. The wetlands play a key role in hydrological cycle and flood control, water supply and providing food, fibre and raw materials.
Besides, such land areas also support lakhs of migratory birds from colder regions of the world in summers, apart from mangroves that protect coastlines and filter pollutants.