CM expresses concern over shrinking wetlands

ITANAGAR, Dec 4: Chief Minister Pema Khandu expressed concern over the reported decrease in the area of wetlands in the state during the last 10 years and stressed on the need for conservation and management by formulating a proper policy.
Chairing a meeting of the State Wetland Authority (SWA) here on Wednesday, Khandu opined that the environment and forest department being the nodal agency needs to work on conservation and management of the wetlands.
Khandu, who is also the minister in- environment and forest, suggested that the department can take the help of the State Remote Sensing Application Center (SRSAC) for identification, surveying and mapping of all the water bodies in Arunachal.
“Once these water bodies are identified and mapped, we can notify these through the SWA and work on conservation and management through the central National Wetlands Conservation Programme,” he said.
The CM said that universities and research institutes can be roped in by the department for research and documentation of the wetlands.
Principal Secretary and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Lalram Thanga regretted that Arunachal despite having a vast resource of wetlands that can compete with any notified wetland is yet to get benefit from the centrally funded schemes on conservation and management. He underscored the urgent need to work on it by survey and mapping of the water bodies besides formulating a comprehensive and inclusive state wetland conservation and management policy.
Tourism Secretary Sadhana Deori suggested that the tourism aspect may be taken into account while formulating a state policy on wetlands as almost all lakes and ponds are hot tourist destinations or can be developed into one.
Meanwhile, Deputy Director (Environment) D Dohu Robin informed that five wetlands were selected from Arunachal for conservation and restoration. These are Shungatser Lake (Tawang), PasangSonam Tso (Shi-Yomi), Glaw Lake (Lohit), Mehao Lake and Sally Lake (Lower Dibang Valley).
The meeting was also attended by officers from SRSAC, departments of environment and forests, fisheries, tourism and town planning and the GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment & Sustainable Development.
As per the Forest Survey of India Report 2017, Arunachal has witnessed a decrease of 195 sqkm in the water body coverage within forest as compared to 2005. The underlying cause for decrease in water bodies within forest cover has been attributed to degradation of catchment areas of many rivers/water bodies due to jhum (slash-and-burn) cultivation, landslides, encroachment, deforestation and other developmental activities.
According to SRSAC report of 2010-11, Arunachal has 852.54 sqkm of total geographical area under water, which includes 790.012 sqkm of rivers and 62.53 sqkm of lakes and ponds. However, these water bodies are yet to be officially identified and mapped in line with the provisions of the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules. The Rules also mandate that all state governments will set up a state level wetland authority entrusted with affairs related to wetland conservation, regulation and management under the relevant state bye-laws.