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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Need of Preserving marsh lands and wetlands

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If you are one of those wondering why there is so much fuss made about preserving marshlands and wetlands, here is why.

Pallikaranai, apart from housing a rich biodiversity of more than 330 varieties of plants, animals and birds, also act like a giant sponge, storing water when available and releasing them in small usable quantities when there is a need.
Pallikaranai has historically played a crucial role in water management for South Chennai until man made interferences upset the cycle, say experts.
With the marsh shrinking from 5,500 hectares in 1965 to a mere 600 hectares at present, the water retention capacity has drastically dropped, threatening the water security and also making it prone to floods.
There have been recurrent floods in South Chennai since 2001-2002. Experts believe this is directly linked to the destruction of the marsh.

“While the annual rainfall has remained consistent, with the overall trend of the last 200 years being around 1,200 mm per year, the intensity of floods alone has gone up,” says Jayashree Vencatesan.

“The flooding days which were just three days in 2005, has increased to five days last year. Construction and garbage dumping have choked the canals making it difficult for water to drain.”

Construction of the Kannagi Nagar resettlement colony over what was the Okkiyam Maduvu, one of the major passageways for water in the marsh, has intensified the fury of floods.

Also, it reduces the water storage capacity, thereby threatening the ground water availability in the region.

“For instance, if the overall extent of the marsh is considered to be around 900 hectares, the surface area would account for nine million sq m. If this surface could accommodate a minimum average of one metre of water, the volume of water that the marsh can potentially hold/drain can be estimated as nine million cubic meters (9 million tons of standing water),” notes the management plan prepared by Care Earth and Chennai City Connect.

“However, if the marsh continues to be degraded and converted to terrestrial lands, not only will the water holding capacity of the marsh be severely curtailed, but the continued inflow of more or less the same quantum of water would cause flooding.”

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest in December 2010 released the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules of 2010 calling for institutions to undertake a comprehensive mapping exercise delineating all the wetlands in the country.

In order to ensure there is no further degradation, the rules prohibit activities that are harmful to wetlands such as industrialisation, construction, dumping of untreated waste and reclamation.

A project on ‘Inland Wetlands of India’ commissioned by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had also prioritised it as one of the most significant wetlands in India.

But these efforts continue to remain only on paper as dumping of waste, sewage treatment plants and unbridled encroachment and development continue to eat away the marshland.

Key Words : wet lands, marsh, conservation, water, swvage treatment
Gokul Chandrashekhar in Express buzz

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