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Just lip service

12th July 2017, 03:05 Hrs

Is the govt encouraging violations through oversight in Goa’s wetlands?

If one needed any evidence that the government pays only lip service to the preservation of the environment and the state’s natural heritage, it’s right there in the conduct of the Goa State Wetlands Authority. \rThe body which was constituted last year is tasked with preparing inventory of wetlands; preparing list of wetlands to be regulated under provisions of the rules; demarcation of the wetland boundaries and preparation of land use maps; preparing an account of existing rights and tenure; demarcating direct zone of influence of the wetland; notifying the wetlands to be regulated under these rules defining ecological character of the wetland; developing comprehensive list of activities to be regulated to ensure wise use of the site; developing integrated plans etc. \rAnd yet, it was only after the intervention of the courts that the government decided to constitute the authority in the first place. What’s worse, despite the government going on record before the National Green Tribunal to state that the Wetlands Authority will meet regularly and will be an effective body, that has not been the case. Believe it or not, among the few decisions the Wetlands Authority can claim to have done over the past one year is that of announcing a competition to select a logo for itself. \rAs expert members on the body have pointed out, managing wetlands is a serious business, more so in Goa where the wetlands in the state are known to attract migratory birds of all hues. Being a coastal state a large percentage of the state’s lands could be classified as wetlands especially khazan lands which in many cases are submerged in water round the year. \rMore than just being biodiversity hotspots and feeding grounds for migratory birds, wetlands also help reduce the impacts from storm damage and flooding, maintain good water quality in rivers, recharge groundwater, store carbon, help stabilise climatic conditions and control pests. Among those, the fact that they recharge groundwater should be enough for governments to realise their importance. \rThese wetlands are especially vulnerable to development in the form of land filling and other illegalities for petty individual gains at the cost of the state’s environment and populace at large. To get things moving the State government needs to sanction studies that will document the characteristics of Goa’s wetlands. These studies take several years to complete the kind of data one needs to gather to simply understand how these bodies function. Are we to believe that by not moving on this front that the government is actually encouraging these violations to continue unabated?
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