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23 Feb 2024, Edition - 3146, Friday

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Whither the wetlands of the blue hills



Udhagamandalam: “The weather pattern in the Nilgiris is not what it used to be.”

“The South West and North East monsoons are playing truant more frequently than earlier.”

“Water scarcity has become a year-round problem unlike a few decades ago.”

“Wild animals are straying into human habitations more frequently than before.”

What are the contributory factors for these nature-related comparisons with better days?

High on the list, especially on the water front, is the loss of wetlands. Barring the observation every year of February 2 as World Wetlands Day by a few organisations to create awareness about their role in maintaining the ecological balance, precious little has been done to conserve them. Not only wetlands within towns have fallen prey to development, but also those in the interior parts of the district have disappeared.

Assurances by the Forest Department that high priority would be accorded to wetland conservation have not produced visible results. A ‘Wetlands Conservation Scheme’ was set in motion about a decade ago by the department under the Hill Area Development Programme (HADP) at Thalaikundah. As part of the drive, the department erected a fence around a large wetland nearby. However, it did not last long and the area is being misused by locals and tourists.

Expressing concern over the state of wetlands, Conservationist K Vijay told The Covai Post that until a few decades ago the Nilgiris abounded with wetlands, reflecting the healthy ecology of the place.

He pointed out that wetlands, including marshes and swamps, help recharge aquifers while acting as natural filters and were ideal habitats for water birds. He warned that if the wetlands are lost water sources will be affected and the eight districts dependent on this ‘overhead tank’ will suffer.

President, Public Awareness Association of Udhagamandalam, G Janardhanan, who has been organising programmes to create awareness about wetlands, said the district administration should conduct a survey to list the areas in which wetlands still exist and declare them eco-sensitive.

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