Weaker protection, ambiguous draft wetland rules: Experts

Kolkata, June 20 (IANS) Wetland conservation experts in West Bengal and Assam have dubbed the Draft Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016 as “considerably weaker” and “ambiguous” compared to the 2010 version in terms of offering protective measures to the wetland ecosystem.

Describing as “vague” and “generic” the definition of wetlands in the draft rules, conservationist Bonani Kakkar says the wording “would not be of any help in identifying the wetlands which should be included in the inventory and notified for protection”.

Stressing for retaining the clauses of the 2010 rules, she also criticised the section that deals with prohibited activities within a wetland.

“Under the 2010 rules, Rule 4 gave an exhaustive list of activities which were prohibited within a wetland area, including reclamation of wetlands. However, the 2016 draft rules provide only three types of prohibited activities,” Kakkar, president of NGO People United for Better Living in Calcutta (PUBLIC) said in a letter to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

The organisation was the petitioner that obtained the landmark judgement by the Calcutta High Court in 1992 prohibiting any land-use change in the East Kolkata Wetlands area (a Ramsar site) spread over 12,500 hectares. The organisation is also a member of the East Kolkata Wetland Management Authority.

In her letter, Kakkar also drew attention to the fact that Environmental Impact Assessment has been done away with in 2016 draft rules.

“This provision is indispensable for protecting wetland ecosystems and should not be done away with,” she added.

According to Partha J. Das, a wetland expert from Assam, many important provisions which were included in 2010 have now been removed from the new draft rules.

“This is alarming from an environmental perspective. For instance, rivers have now been completely excluded from the definition of ‘wetlands’,” said Das of NGO Aaranyak.

Apprehending “exploitationa of wetlands in Assam, which has over 3,000 of them, Das emphasised “under no circumstance, protection is diluted”.

“Under the Draft Wetland Rules 2016, only selective wetlands would be accorded protection. The new rules are therefore considerably weaker when compared to the 2010 version with an added clause which states that aunder special circumstances’ even these protections may be nullified,” he said.



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