Biodiversity; Transformation; Settlement; Urban; Wetland
|PUBLISHED DATE||July 2016|
|PUBLISHER||The Author(s) 2016. This article is published with open access at www.chitkara.edu.in/publications|
WETLANDS AND THEIR FUNCTIONS
Wetlands, as the name suggests, is any land which is wet or contains water. Wetlands are not only the most productive ecosystems on earth that support numerous unique flora and fauna, but are also directly linked with livelihood and food security as well as to much economic benefit. Wetlands serve as natural rainwater harvesting sites by collecting the precious rainwater within it. Water supply to many big cities are sourced from wetlands alone. Wetlands in close vicinity of rivers also act as buffers that control flood and river flow. When the level of the river rises, water flows into the wetlands. Similarly, when river water level decreases, water from these wetlands gushes into the river, thus maintaining its average flow. Mangroves mostly found in such ecosystems not only protect the land from speedy waves but offer protection from cyclones as well. During the 2004 Tsunami, it was found that the coasts with good mangrove vegetation were least affected.
Wetlands act as natural rainwater recharging zones. Water stored in the wetland percolates slowly in the aquifers. Every water body has a self cleaning system. Many aquatic flora and micro fauna present in wetlands are found to be effective in treating water with high coli form percentage as well. Many species of algae and plants have remarkable capacity of accumulating heavy metals in their mucilage and leaves and are known to be hyper-accumulators. Wetlands also play a great role in regulating local climate, particularly temperature and moisture. The phytoplankton community are very good carbon sequesters and absorb carbon dioxide much faster than terrestrial plants. Wetlands are, thus, also considered as local carbon sinks. The most productive ecosystem, wetlands harbour a great variety of animals and plants. It is a paradise of bird watchers and many birds find hostage in wetlands all around the world.
Deepor Beel is a Ramsar Site and a wetland of great biodiversity, which is situated towards the South-western part of Guwahati. The Rani and Garbhanga Reserved Forests are adjacent to the wetland, which altogether stands as a complete ecosystem providing environmental solutions, food security and different types of biodiversity to the city. The forest serves as an abode to the Northeastern region’s Asiatic elephant (Elephas maximus), which is an endangered species. But with various recent urban developments, the wetland and the whole ecosystem has been under threat of diminishing area of the wetland, extinction of biodiversity, as well as transformation of land use pattern of the entire area and its surroundings. The Indian Railways constructed the southern railway track in 2001, an action which gradually divided the Deepor Beel into segments and, thus, affected the wetland in particular and the ecosystem as a whole. Illegal settlements, setting up of factories, construction of highways, etc. have also hampered the wetland in many ways while also posing a threat to the urban areas. This paper shall analyse the various developments affecting the wetland and shall find strategies to regulate further developments around the wetland.
|ISSN||Print : 2321-3892, Online : 2321-7154|
Wetlands are the ultimate groundwater recharging areas which not only help collection of rainwater and making it available for percolation but also in cleaning the water, and enabling nutrient retention, flood protection and erosion control. Hence, they are also known asthe ‘kidneys of landscape’. They are highly rich in biodiversity and, are also linked to food and water security of the country. Despite all the important functions and service they provide, wetlands in India are indeed facing a great threat from urbanization and growing population. It is a herculean task to protect the existing wetlands from different pressures. Increased public awareness, collaborative scientific and public efforts along with a great political will is needed to bring about the exemplar shift in conserving this beautiful architectural wonders.