The 2nd State Wetland Authority (SWA) meeting was held here this morning under the Chairmanship of Chief Minister Pema Khandu by virtue of being the minister in-charge of Environment and Forest.
Khandu expressed concern over the reported decrease in the area of wetlands in the state in the last ten years and stressed on the need for conservation and management through a proper state policy on it.
As per Forest Survey of India Report 2017 (FSI, 2017), Arunachal Pradesh has witnessed a decrease of 195 Sq. Km in the water body coverage within Forest compared to 2005. The underlying cause for decrease in water bodies within forest cover has been attributed to degradation of catchment areas of many rivers/water bodies due to jhum (slash-and-burn) cultivation, landslides, encroachment, deforestation and other developmental activities.
According to State Remote Sensing Application Center report of 2010-11, Arunachal Pradesh has 852.54 Sq Kms of total geographical area under water, which includes 790.012 Sq Kms of rivers and 62.53 Sq Kms of lakes and ponds. However, these water bodies are yet to be officially identified and mapped in line with the provisions of the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules. The Rules also mandate that all State Governments shall set up a State Level Wetland Authority entrusted with affairs related to wetland conservation, regulation and management under the relevant State bye-laws.
The Chief Minister observed that as the nodal agency the state’s Environment and Forest department needs to work on conservation and management of the wetlands beginning with identification, survey and mapping of all water bodies in the state. He suggested that help may be taken from the State Remote Sensing Application Center, which is already working in geo tagging and mapping of state’s geographical features and assets.
“Once these water bodies are identified and mapped, we can notify these through the State Wetland Authority and work on conservation and management through the centrally sponsored scheme of National Wetlands Conservation Program,” Khandu suggested.
For research and documentation of the wetlands, Khandu said universities and research institutes can be roped in by the department.
Principal Secretary and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Lalram Thanga regretted that Arunachal Pradesh despite having a vast resource of wetlands that can compete with any notified wetland is yet to benefit from centrally funded schemes on conservation and management. He underscored the urgent need to work on it by survey and mapping of the water bodies besides formulating a comprehensive and inclusive state wetland conservation and management policy.
Tourism Secretary Sadhna Deori suggested that the tourism aspect may be taken into account while formulating a state policy on wetlands as almost all lakes and ponds are hot tourist destinations or can be developed into one.
Meanwhile, Deputy Director (Environment) D Dohu Robin informed that during a recent meeting on August 26 last on Wetlands chaired by Secretary, MoEF& CC, GoI for inclusion of 100 wetlands in India and its restoration measures, five wetlands were selected from Arunachal Pradesh for conservation and restoration. These are Shungatser Lake (Tawang), Pasang Sonam Tso (Shi-Yomi), Glaw Lake (Lohit), Mehao Lake and Sally Lake (Lower Dibang Valley).
The meeting was also attended by officers of State Remote Sensing Application Center, Departments of Environment and Forests, Fisheries, Tourism and Town Planning and the G B Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment & Sustainable Development.