The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFF &CC), Government of India has asked for comments on the draft Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016 (http://envfor.nic.in/sites/default/files/GSR%20385%20(E).PDF), by June 6, 2016 which is an amendment to the existing Rules of 2010.
The draft rules are in line with the ‘Wise Use’ philosophy of the Ramsar Convention and accord greater emphasis on maintaining ecological character and integrity of wetlands – a rather welcome move especially in view of the fact that a singular restoration or protection template for all wetlands has been the bane of our efforts in India. There is also a very specific mention of the need to focus on ensuring the continuance of ecosystem services without impacting wetland biodiversity. The mandate of the State Wetland Authority is detailed rather lucidly, and it is heartening to find aspects such as traditional tenurial rights, preparation of integrated wetland plans, convergence of plans and programmes between line departments. The draft rules also place greater emphasis on the need to identify wetlands through a multi-mapping process by the State, while also urging the States to establish State Wetland Authorities with the participation of all the line departments and experts. A glaring lacuna however is the fact that representatives of farming and fishing communities, who are the primary stakeholders have not been accommodated for as members in the State Wetland Authority. It is indeed a matter of concern that except for Orissa, no other Indian state has inventorised its wetlands for protection or conservation – hopefully, the revised Rules which pushes for greater state autonomy would act as an impetus for action.