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Context: New Wetland Conservation Rules has been notified by the Ministry of Environment.


About the new rules

  • The new rules prohibit setting up or expansion of industries and disposal of construction and demolition waste within the wetlands.
  • Each state and Union Territory will have to set up an authority that will define strategies for conservation and wise use of wetlands within their jurisdiction.
  • A list of all wetlands of the State or UT will be prepared by the Authority within three months from the date of publication of these rules.
  • It will develop a comprehensive list of activities to be regulated and permitted within the notified wetlands and their zone of influence.
  • It will also recommend mechanisms for maintenance of ecological character through promotional activities for land within the boundary of notified wetlands.
  • A web portal has also been created by the Ministry for sharing information regarding the implementation of Wetlands Rules where the central government, state governments are required to upload all relevant information and documents pertaining to wetlands in their jurisdiction. 

What is a wetland?

A wetland is an area of land that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, and it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem. The Centre had in September 2019, identified 130 wetlands for priority restoration in the next five years. 

The highest number of such identified wetlands are in Uttar Pradesh (16) followed by Madhya Pradesh (13), Jammu & Kashmir (12), Gujarat (8), Karnataka (7) and West Bengal (6)

What is the status of wetlands in India?

Wetlands in India account for 4.7% of the total geographical area of the country. These wetlands provide numerous ecosystem goods and services, but are under stress.

Reasons for wetlands loss in India are urbanization, land use changes and pollution. There is no proper regulatory framework for conservation of wetlands in India. Future research should focus on institutional factors influencing their condition.

Though there is no separate legal provision for wetland conservation in India, it is indirectly influenced by number of other legal instruments. These include: 
  • Indian Fisheries Act 1857; 
  • Indian Forest Act 1927;
  • Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972; 
  • Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974; 
  • Territorial Water, Continental Shelf, Exclusive Economic Zone and other Marine Zones Act 1976;
  • Water Cess Act 1977;
  • Maritime Zone of India (Regulation and fishing by foreign vessels) Act 1980, Forest (Conservation) Act 1980; 
  • Environmental (Protection) Act 1986, Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 1991;
  • Biodiversity Act 2002; and 
  • Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006.
Provisions under these acts range from protection of water quality and notification of ecologically sensitive areas to contributing towards conserving, maintaining, and augmenting the floral, faunal and avifaunal biodiversity of the country's aquatic bodies. However, the term wetland was not used specifically in any of these legal instruments.

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