Bird Village as Wetland

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    • Udaipur’s ‘bird village’ is set to be declared as a wetland.

    Key Points

    • About: Recognised as the “bird village” following community-driven conservation efforts, Menar in Udaipur district is set to be notified as Rajasthan’s new wetland. 
    • Why the name ‘bird village’: The two lakes in the village – the Brahma and Dhandh – play host to a large number of migratory birds in the winter season every year.
    • The State government’s Forest Department has initiated the process for notification of Menar as a wetland. 
      • It will recognise its role in the storage of sediment and nutrients and enable the local authorities to maintain the Brahma and Dhandh lakes.

    Image Courtesy: Spring 

    • Wetlands in Rajasthan: At present, Rajasthan has two wetlands recognised as Ramsar sites:
      • Keoladeo Ghana in Bharatpur district and 
      • Sambhar Salt Lake in Jaipur district.
    • Community works: 
      • The villagers in Menar have built a healthy ecosystem for birds during the last four years with activities such as patrolling, rescue of injured birds and reporting any attempts for poaching. 
      • The volunteers known as Pakshi Mitras (friends of birds) were maintaining the lakes as a safe haven for birds.
      • Villagers had stopped using water from the lakes for irrigation and started regular weeding to get rid of water hyacinth, while the panchayat had prohibited fishing in the water bodies. 
      • When the water level declines in summer, the lakes are filled with water through tankers to save the fish and birds. 
      • Pakshi Mitras have also taken up development of pastures near these reservoirs
    • Variety of Species: More than 150 species of local and migratory birds inhabit the two lakes in the winter season. They include:
      • Greater Flamingo, 
      • White-Tailed Lapwing, 
      • Pelican, 
      • Marsh Harrier, 
      • Bar Headed Goose, 
      • Common Teal, 
      • Greenshank, 
      • Pintail, 
      • Wagtail, 
      • Green Sandpiper And 
      • Red-Wattled Lapwing. 
    • Birds migrate from: The arrival of migratory birds takes place from as far as Central Asia, Europe and Mongolia.
    • Rich history: Connecting it closely with the erstwhile rulers of Mewar, Menar has come on the radar of birdwatchers in the State because of the villagers’ conservation initiative. 
    • Significance of this move: 
      • Way to Ramsar Site Status: This will pave the way for getting the Ramsar site status for this rural heartland of the Mewar region. 
      • Better vegetation: With the status of wetland, the two lakes will be strengthened for increasing vegetation of aquatic plants and protecting biodiversity.
      • Lake protection: The fresh water lakes supporting the ecosystem of the region will be protected with the application of the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2019.

    Wetlands in India

    • At present, total 46 wetlands sites of India are protected under Ramsar Convention.
    • Wetlands are regulated under the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017.

    Significance of Wetlands

    • Conserve Biodiversity: Wetlands play a vital role in conserving biodiversity, they purify and replenish groundwater. They also protect our coastlines and help fight climate change. In urban India, they work as critical carbon sinks.
    • Ecosystem Services: Wetlands provide a wide range of important resources and ecosystem services such as food, water, fibre, groundwater recharge, water purification, flood moderation, erosion control and climate regulation.
    • Prevent Flooding: The wetlands serve as a natural sponge against flooding and drought. They play a role in preventing urban flooding as well.
    • Home for wildlife: They offer the perfect place for animals to be safe and hidden from predators – perhaps from the air – as well as providing a lot of diverse foodstuffs such as grasses, mosses and other plant life.
    • Erosion Control: Wetlands act as a sort of erosion control. Emergent – plants that are firmly rooted in the ground – grow almost exclusively in wetlands, and due to this, the flow of water slows down.

    Challenges to Wetlands

    • Declining Wetlands: According to estimates by Wetlands International South Asia, nearly 30 percent of the natural wetlands in India have been lost in the last three decades mainly to illegal construction, unsustainable urbanisation, agricultural expansion and pollution.
    • Unsustainable urbanisation:
      • Chennai lost 90 percent of its wetlands to unplanned urbanisation, leaving the city to grapple with issues of water security and degraded environment. 
      • Vadodara lost 30.5 percent of its wetlands between 2005 and 2018. 
      • Hyderabad lost 55 per cent of its wetlands to inefficient waste management, rising pollution and unchecked urban development. 
      • Mumbai lost 71 per cent, Ahmedabad 57 per cent, Bengaluru 56 per cent, Pune 37 percent and Delhi-National Capital Region lost 38 per cent wetlands mainly to construction and eutrophication from pollution. 
    • Ignoring Urban Wetlands: The conservation efforts mostly centred on the notified Ramsar sites ignore several other urban wetlands that are equally important. 
    • Lack of Awareness: In addition to urbanisation needs, lack of awareness and knowledge on wetlands and their ecosystem services can be blamed for this widespread loss.
    • Exclusion of Local Communities: The existing laws completely ignore the participation of local communities in governing and monitoring wetlands.

    India’s Initiatives for Conservation of Wetlands

    • National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems (NPCA) 
      • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) is currently implementing this centrally sponsored scheme (60:40, 90:10 for North Eastern States and 100% Central Govt. funded for UTs).
      • Aim: For conservation and management of identified wetlands in the country on a cost sharing basis between the Central Government and respective State/ UT Governments.
      • The scheme covers various activities such as interception, diversion and treatment of wastewater, shoreline protection, lakefront development, & in-situ cleaning.
    • World Wetlands Day (WWD)
    • The MoEF&CC organises National level celebration of World Wetlands Day (WWD) on 2nd February of each year in collaboration with the concerned State Governments.
    • To raise awareness among all sections of the society about values and functions of wetlands and utilization of their resources. 
    • Wetlands (Conservation & Management) Rules, 2017
      • The 2017 Rules replaced the Central Wetland Regulatory Authority with state-level bodies and created a National Wetland Committee, which functions in an advisory role.
      • These wetlands authority comprises ministers, officials and experts, in all states.
      • The newer regulations removed some items from the definition of “wetlands” including backwaters, lagoon, creeks, and estuaries.
    • Wetlands Rejuvenation Programme 
      • The MoEFCC implemented this programme within the framework of transformative ideas of Government of India i.e. “Start work on Restoration & Rejuvenation of at least 100 major wetlands across the country”. 
    • Centre for Wetland Conservation and Management (CWCM)
      • A dedicated centre has been set up under the MoEF&CC, at the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) in Chennai. 
      • It has multiple roles to play in the conservation of wetlands. 
      • It will address specific research needs and knowledge gaps to address wetlands and their management and bring capacity development and cutting-edge research to wetlands in India. 

    Way Ahead

    • The high-tension power line and sewer line passing through the lakes should  be shifted from there.
    • The district administration should formulate a management plan for systematic development of the lakes, while an action plan is under way to get Menar notified as a wetland at the earliest. 

    Source: TH