In an effort to replenish rapidly depleting groundwater in Uttar Pradesh, the State Wetland Authority (SWA) has identified 1.23 lakh wetlands across the state for conservation and protection. Of the 1.23 lakh wetlands, as many as 26,000 water bodies are spread over 2.5 hectares each and 97,000 are smaller than that. The order to preserve and protect wetlands was issued by principal secretary, forest, Kalpana Awasthi and SWA chief executive officer Vibhash Ranjan. The government has, meanwhile, entrusted forest officials with the task to file a 25-point comprehensive field report on the status of the identified wetlands and their supporting features for further action. “After receiving field reports, the state government will notify the wetlands. The move will bring encroachments or any threats, such as discharge of polluted water and unauthorised exploitation of water resource, etc, posed to wetlands under the ambit of stringent law of the Wildlife Protection Act.
Ranjan, who is also chief conservator of forest of Gorakhpur forest zone, said the plan was primarily aimed at increasing the fast depleting groundwater in almost every part of UP. “Since countless water bodies disappeared due to illegal possession and construction, the existing wetlands urgently needed protection under stringent law,” said Ranjan. In the first phase, SWA will focus primarily on wetlands stretched over 2.5 hectares. “We have given precedence to 10 districts, six in the Ganga basin and four in eastern UP, which have maximum number of wetlands lined up for conservation. According to Ranjan, at present, Ramgarh Tal in Gorkahpur— spread over 749 hectares — is the only notified wetland in the country. SWA has identified a total of 303 wetlands spread over 2.5 hectares or above in Pilibhit district through satellite imagining and remote sensing.It included the status of silt, presence of aquatic animals like turtles, fish, otters and crocodiles, cropping patterns in surrounding agricultural area and encroachments. “The action plan also includes awareness programmes for local communities, in addition to educating them about the importance of wetlands for the future of vegetation, humans and animals.