The Ministry of Environment and Forests, on January 6, 2020, issued a notification for the new Wetland Conservation Rules. The new Rules prohibit the conversion for non-wetland uses, including encroachment of any kind, besides setting up of any industry and expansion of existing industries within the notified wetlands. It also prohibits manufacture, handling, storage or disposal of construction and demolition waste (covered under the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016) hazardous substances, electronic waste (covered under the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016), solid waste dumping and discharge of untreated wastes and effluent from industries, cities, towns, villages and other human settlements, within such bodies. A wetland is a land area that is saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, and it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem.
The Ministry has also directed that 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. “The authority shall prepare a list of all wetlands of the state or UT, within three months from the date of publication of these Rules, develop a comprehensive list of activities to be regulated and permitted within the notified wetlands and their zone of influence. It shall recommend mechanisms for maintenance of ecological character through promotional activities for land within the boundary of notified wetlands,” the notification said. It also directed the authority, to be headed by the state or UT’s environment minister, to undertake measures for enhancing awareness among stakeholders and local communities on values and functions of wetland. The authority will also include one expert each in the fields of wetland ecology, hydrology, fisheries, landscape planning and socioeconomics to be nominated by the state government.
The Ministry said it has created a web portal for sharing information regarding implementation of the Wetlands Rules, where the central government, state governments and UTs, are required to upload all relevant information and documents pertaining to wetlands in their jurisdiction. In September 2019, the Ministry had announced that more than 100 wetlands, essential for combating land degradation, have been identified in India and will be restored in the next five years.
Notification for identification of wetlands issued: MoEF informs NGT
The Environment Ministry has informed the NGT that it has issued a notification, asking states to identify wetlands for protection, under the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017
September 6, 2018: The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has informed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that it has issued a notification, for the identification and protection of wetlands, which prohibit encroachments of any kind, waste dumping and discharge of effluents. A bench of justice RS Rathore and expert member SS Garbyal was told by the Environment Ministry that state governments have been directed, to proceed in the matter as per the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017, which was issued on September 26, 2017.
The tribunal was also apprised that the Supreme Court has already identified a certain number of wetlands and ordered that they should be protected. “In our considered view that if any other wetland is not included in the order of Supreme Court, then, the applicant should proceed before the court and request for the inclusion of such wetlands, which according to him has not been so included in the earlier order. He may seek protection for those subsequently included wetlands. Above all, the applicant has already moved before the Supreme Court challenging the Wetlands Rules, 2017. In such view of the matter, the issue is already subjudice before the Supreme Court and nothing further needs to be proceeded with, by this tribunal,” the bench said.
The tribunal’s order came, while disposing pleas filed by environmentalists Anand Arya and Pushp Jain, seeking direction to the government to identify all wetlands within the state, as per The Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010. The petition had alleged that the centre had violated sections of the Environment Protection Act 1986, by not taking necessary steps to protect and save the environment, which was increasing the risk of losing the wetlands.
The centre is neither notifying wetlands in the country, nor coordinating actions of state governments and other authorities under the Act and the 2010 Rules, to identify wetlands within states, it had said. The plea had said it is ‘abundantly clear’ that there is no protection available to a large number of wetlands across the country, since these are not listed and hence, the risk of ‘losing precious wetlands in the country is very high’.