The state has recorded a 64.5 per cent decrease in wetland area documented in the National Wetland Atlas 2011 (Maharashtra). The Atlas, mapped under the 2010 wetland rules, had marked 44,714 wetlands across the state, which covered an area of 10 lakh hectare. However, on January 30, the state submitted a list of only 15,865 verified potential wetland zones in the Bombay High Court.
The reasons for this sharp drop, said officials, are one, the amended 2017 Wetland (Conservation and Management) rules that do not incorporate wetlands in coastal regulation zones (CRZ) and de-recognised salt pans as wetlands; two, wrong mapping in 2010 which did not stand up to the scrutiny of “ground proofing”; and three, encroachments that have swallowed some wetlands.
In the list submitted to the court, Mumbai has 59 verified potential wetland zones — 10 in the city and 49 in the suburbs. Of the nearly 16,000 sites in the list, 759 sites across the state are still pending verification through ground inspection. According to UNESCO, wetlands are ecosystems saturated with water, either seasonally or permanently. They are important for flood control as they store excess water and ensure its quality, providing resilience against drought. They play a central role in sustaining fresh water sources. According to RAMSAR Convention, wetlands include: “All lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peat lands, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans”.
The list submitted in the High Court will now be scrutinised and a final list of wetlands will be notified by the state. “This is a primary list which is prepared by the district collectors and tehsildars by ground proofing. Now this list will be studied by the state wetland committee headed by the state environment minister. Following that, a final list of wetlands will be sent to state department for final notification,” said Sanjay Sandanshiv, under secretary, environment department.
According to an earlier affidavit by state government, there were no wetlands in Nandurbar, Parbhani and Nagpur districts, based on reports from the respective district collectors. However, in the affidavit submitted on January 30, the state has verified 164 wetlands sites in Nandurbar, 78 in Parbhani and 561 in Nagpur.
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