Wetlands Current Affairs
The World Wetland Day (WWD) is observed every year on 2 February to raise awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet. This day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands (also called as Ramsar Convention) in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The theme for year 2018 is “Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future“. The theme underlines the importance of wetlands and that the future of urban centres hinges on wetlands.
For first time, World Wetland Day was celebrated in year 1997. Since then it is observed every year to spread awareness about Ramsar Convention in particular for conservation of Wetlands. The theme for year 2017 Theme was “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction”.
Wetlands are transitional lands between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where water table is usually at or near surface or land is covered by shallow water. It may be manmade or artificial. They support rich biodiversity and provide wide range of ecosystem services such as water storage, aquifer recharge, water purification, flood mitigation, erosion control, act as carbon sinks and others.
Ramsar Convention aim to raise public awareness on conservation, proper utilisation and management of wetlands and their resources. It also seeks to promote conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local, regional and national actions and international cooperation, as contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout world.
The central zonal bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Rajasthan government to cancel allotments of salt pans in the Sambhar Salt Lake.
Ruling in this regard was given by NGT bench headed by Justice Dalip Singh and expert Satyawan Singh Garbyal on a petition filed by Ajay Dubey.
What is the issue?
The petitioner had alleged that commercial, ground water extracting and other activities in and around the Sambhar Lake are detrimental to the eco-system of the wetland. These activities were carried out illegally contrary to the provisions of the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules framed under the Environment Protection Acts, 1986.
- Directed state government to cancel allotments of all salt pans falling within the wetland and run contrary to the mandate of Wetland Rules, 2010 must be cancelled.
- State government not to make any further allotments or permit new salt pans within the wetland areas.
- The Sambhar Salt Lake should declare ‘no construction zone’ for the said purpose in accordance with the Wetland Rules, 2010.
The illegal business of brine extraction in the Sambhar Salt Lake (SSL) was first highlighted in the Vinod Kapoor Committee report in 2010. The report had mentioned that 15-20 borewells were operating in every bigha of land in the vicinity of SSL. It resulted in to exploitation of water resources leading to decline groundwater level by almost 60 metres in the area.
About Sambhar Salt Lake
- Sambhar Salt Lake is India’s largest inland salt lake. It is located in Nagaur and Jaipur districts of Rajasthan. It is surrounded on all sides by the Aravali hills.
- The lake is actually an extensive saline wetland with circumference of 96 km. It receives water from an endorheic basin with 5700 square km catchment area.
- Economic Importance: It is source of most of Rajasthan’s salt production. It produces 196,000 tonnes of clean salt every year.
- Ecological Importance: It has been designated as a Ramsar site (recognized wetland of international importance).
- It is important wintering area for flamingos and other birds that migrate from northern Asia.