- The SC provided major direction to preserve ecologically crucial wetlands threatened by encroachment in many parts of the country.
- Supreme Court directed the Centre on 8th Feb 2017 to frame a policy to protect wetlands by June 30.
- The court’s direction will cover over 2 lakh wetlands across India which were identified through satellite imagery by ISRO.
- The Centre has been asked to draw up a phased plan of action to conserve the water bodies.
- The Centre is to notify all 2,01,503 wetlands and asked the states to provide details too.
- The bench set a deadline of June 30 to frame policy for preservation of wetlands that are seen as effective carbon sinks to mitigate climate change and support a wide variety of arial, land and aquatic wildlife and fauna.
- Wetlands are defined as areas of land either temporarily or permanently covered by water.
- They play a key role in the hydrological cycle in storm and flood control, water supply, providing food, fibre and raw materials.
- They support lakhs of migratory birds from colder regions of the world in summers, apart from mangroves that protect coastlines and filter pollutants.
- With wetlands endangered by land grabbing activities, including by initiatives by state and central governments that include releasing lands for commercial development, environmentalists approached the Supreme Court seeking measures to protect the ecosystems.
- The SC has been examining the issue since 2001 and passed various orders.
- The Centre informed the court it had formed a comprehensive scheme of National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems (NPCA) for conservation and restoration of lakes and wetlands.
- The ministry has so far identifies 115 wetlands and 63 lakes in 24 states and 2 union territories for conservation and management under the scheme.
- So far, since 1987-88 an amount of Rs 780 crore has been released for undertaking various conservation activities.
Mapping and State-wise Distribution of Wetlands
- ISRO had in 2011 prepared a national wetlands atlas on the basis of satellite image and 201503 wetlands were mapped.
- Total wetland area estimated is 15.26 Mha, which is around 4.63 per cent of the geographic area of the country.
- Area under inland wetlands is 10.56 million hectare and area under coastal wetlands is 4.14 Mha.
- State-wise distribution of wetlands showed that Lakshadweep has 96.12% of geographic area under wetlands followed by Andaman & Nicobar Islands (18.52%).
- Daman & Diu(18.46%) and Gujarat (17.56%). Puducherry (12.88%), West Bengal (12.48%), Assam (9.74%), Tamil Nadu (6.92%), Goa (5.76%), Andhra Pradesh (5.26%), and Uttar Pradesh (5.16%) are wetland rich states.
- The least extents have been observed in Mizoram (0.66%) followed by Haryana (0.86%), Delhi (0.93%), Sikkim (1.05%), Nagaland (1.30%), and Meghalaya (1.34%).