August 13, 2008

Central Law on the Anvil to Fight Wetland Abuse


Kolkata: Taking a cue from West Bengal, which was the first state to introduce a code for the preservation of wetlands , the Centre is all set to introduce a law to preserve these fragile eco-systems .

The Centre's environment and forest ministry is going to issue a about conservation of wetlands. Before finalising the law - being termed Wetlands (Conservation and Management ) Rules, 2008 - they must send a draft to state governments for comments.

It was learnt that the new law will make it illegal to build permanent structures within 50 metres of wetlands. The proposed act will also ban motorized boats from plying on the waterbodies. The law is guided , to some extent, by the state's existing wetland laws.

In spite of the state's protective code, a number of complaints regarding wetlands have been lodged with the state's environment department. Officials too conceded that wetlands around Kolkata are not properly protected. Some of these complaints have also reached the central environment ministry , said an official.

The Centre's law will be a major boost to preserve these waterbodies, which contribute greatly to maintain ecological balance of an area. The law will forbid dumping of solid waste and discharge of untreated effluents in wetlands and call for public hearing at the site or nearby to ascertain concerns of the area's affected people.

The environment ministry is also against withdrawal of water from the waterbodies. Again, it will forbid conversion of a wetland into non-wetland use unless it is in public interest . There are provisions for punishment in case the rule is flouted. It will also provide financial assistance to state governments for various conservation activities.

A Central Wetlands Conservation Committee (CWCC), to be constituted by the Centre , will have 17 experts to supervise the protection of wetlands . Similar committees would be also formed at the state and district levels to check illegal activities.

Maps of each wetland will be maintained by the committee . These maps will record potential threats to the wetland. They would also keep on record regulatory activities. Each wetland shall be placed under a single identified agency. Wetlands within protected areas, such as national parks and sanctuaries , would be protected under the Wildlife Act.

State environment secretary M L Meena said: "Since we have an existing law, we have given suggestions. If needed, the buffer could be increased to 100 metres in some zones."


Ban on

Permanent structures within 50 metres Plying of motorized boats Dumping of solid waste and discharge of untreated effluents Withdrawal of water

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