Published By: Admin

Can Wetlands Solve The Water Scarcity In India?

From storing carbon to protecting coastal region, wetlands are truly natural superheroes.

As per India’s Wetland Rules 2017, wetlands "areas of marsh, fen, peat land or water, including lakes/ponds, oxbow lakes, riverine wetlands, tanks, lagoons and mangroves, performing critical ecological functions for wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge, carbon storage and water regulation." The rich cultural diversity in India is largely attributed to its abundant water bodies. A couple of major Indian cities are endowed with wetlands, including Kolkata (East Kolkata Wetlands), Guwahati (Deepor Beel Lake), Mumbai (mangroves), and Chennai (Adyar flood plains).

We are directly or indirectly dependent on wetlands for the freshwater due to their capturing, storing, and purifying abilities. However, shockingly, wetlands are generally overlooked in global environment-related policies. According to recent updates, around 60% of the global wetland bodies were vanished in the 20th century. Why we should start focusing on wetlands? This article will give you the answer.

Wetlands and their potential to mitigate climate change:

To mitigate climate change it's important to trap carbon so that it cannot reach the atmosphere.

Wetlands can hold tremendous quantity of carbon in their thick biomass. As a result this carbon cannot reach the atmosphere, in this way, wetlands can decrease global warming. Meanwhile, mangroves have ability to store four times more carbon than rainforests.

Apart from carbon sequestration, wetlands prevent worst effects of climate change including droughts, sea level rise, and floods.

Peatlands simply act as sponges. Due to extensive holding and less releasing capacity, intensity of both floods and droughts get decreased. That's why, any coastal wetlands including mangroves act as saviour from storms or rapid sea level rise. They stabilize the shorelines and decrease the amplitude of waves.

Wetlands as biodiversity hotspots:

You will be surprised to know that nearly 40% of the living organisms live in wetlands. They are preferable breeding grounds for fish, a perfect stopover zone for migratory birds, and even hunting grounds for big animals like sharks or tigers.

In South America, the huge Pantanal wetland is a perfect 'ecological melting pot' full of capybaras, caiman, giant otters, giant anteaters, jaguars, and maned wolves.

The Congo basin in Africa holds the largest tropic peat swamp in the globe, has a large populations of forest elephants and gorillas.

Shockingly enough, one fourth of the living organisms are currently threatened with extinction globally.

So, if we are unable to protect and utilize wetlands, millions of lives dependent on wetlands will eventually vanish from the environment.

Wetlands are largest source of freshwater:

If the world is devoid of wetlands, then there wouldn't be any freshwater in it. Healthy wetlands improves surrounding water quality. Wetlands act as recharge body of groundwater, on which billion people are surviving.

The threats:

The rapid urbanization, disposal of untreated sewage are threatening the functioning of the wetlands. In India, significant losses of urban wetlands (example: wetlands in Delhi) happened mostly due to unclear responsibility and overlapping jurisdictions.

Here's a video explaining importance of wetlands.

Water crisis in India:

NITI Ayog’s ‘A  Composite Water Management Index’ published in June 2018, stated that "more than 600 million people in India face a water crisis." The Chennai water crisis in 2019 showed how "Indian cities are vulnerable to shortages of usable water and poor water resources management."

Likewise, the devastating impacts of heavy rainfall in Mumbai in 2005, claiming over 1,000 lives rose many questions on water conservation related issues.

Considering this recent scenario, India must focus on conserving urban waterbodies and wetlands to reduce the impact of climate change.

Simply put, we cannot even survive without wetlands, so, treat them as indispensable source of water. Proper management and governance of wetlands needs to be started to protect the ecological balance and improve economic value.