What are the environmental implications of the reclamation of the water bodies into urban land use? Explain with examples. UPSC GS Paper 1 2021, 10 Marks

Q6. शहरी भूमि उपयोग के लिए जल निकायों से भूमि-उद्धार के पर्यावरणीय प्रभाव क्या हैं ? उदाहरणों सहित समझाइए । (150 शब्दों में उत्तर दीजिए)

Q6. What are the environmental implications of the reclamation of the water bodies into urban land use? Explain with examples. (150 words) 10 Marks

Lakes and wetlands are  important waterbodies of urban ecosystem which perform significant environmental, social and economic functions — from being a source of drinking water and recharging groundwater to supporting biodiversity and providing livelihoods.

Their role becomes even more crucial in the present context, when cities are facing the challenge of rapid unplanned urbanisation.

The reclamation of waterbodies and its environmental implications :

  • Numbers of waterbodies declining rapidly:  Bangalore had 262 lakes in the 1960s; now only 10 of them hold water. At least 137 lakes were listed in Ahmedabad in 2001; construction work started on 65 of them. Hyderabad has lost 3,245 hectares of its wetlands.
  • Concretisation has been a major problem in several cities and towns, according to The National Disaster Management Guidelines: Management of Urban Flooding report, published by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in 2010.  31 per cent of the country was urbanised in 2011. Natural streams and watercourses, formed over thousands of years due to the forces of flowing water in the respective watersheds, have been altered because of urbanisation.
  • there have been large scale encroachments on the natural drains and the river flood plains. Consequently, the capacity of natural drains has decreased, resulting in flooding.Urban water bodies have been a victim of unplanned urbanisation in India, because of which they face several threats such as encroachment, disposal of sewage, groundwater decline leading to fall in the level of water, unplanned tourism and absence of administrative framework
  • Pollution: There has been an explosive increase in the urban population without corresponding expansion of civic facilities such as infrastructure for the disposal of waste.
  • The water bodies have been turned into landfills in several cases. Guwahati’s Deepor beel, for example, is used by the municipal corporation to dump solid waste since 2006. Even the Pallikarni marshland in Chennai is used for solid waste dumping.
  • Adding to the sorry state of urban water bodies is the misuse by local communities for their cultural or religious festivals such the immersion of idols. Heavy metal concentration can be found in lakes in Nagpur and Bhopal and the Hussainsagar Lake in Hyderabad after idol immersion every year.
  • Encroachment: This is another major threat to urban water bodies. As more people have been migrating to cities, availability of land has been getting scarce. Today, even a small piece of land in urban areas has a high economic value. These urban water bodies are not only acknowledged for their ecosystem services, but for their real estate value was well. Charkop Lake in Maharashtra, Ousteri Lake in Puducherry, Deepor beel in Guwahati are well-known examples of water bodies that were encroached.
  • The size of this city wetland has been decreasing rapidly. Once a bird sanctuary, it is now the dumping yard of the city: Dumping of solid waste, sewage discharge and construction of railway stations and roads have shrunk this wetland.
  • Illegal mining activities: Illegal mining for building material such as sand and quartzite on the catchment and bed of the lake have extremely damaging impact on the water body. For example, the Jaisamand Lake in Jodhpur, once the only source of drinking water for the city, has been suffering from illegal mining in the catchment area for the last 20 years despite a court order to stop mining in 1999.Badkhal Lake in Faridabad has dried up in the same way. Unmindful sand mining from the catchment of Vembanad Lake on the outskirts of Kochi has decreased the water level in the lake.
  • Unplanned tourism activities: Using water bodies to attract tourists has become a threat to several urban lakes in India. Tso Morari and Pongsho lakes in Ladakh have become polluted because of unplanned and unregulated tourism. Another example is that of Ashtamudi Lake in Kerala’s Kollam city, which has become polluted due to spillage of oil from motor boats.

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