Wetlands and lakes will now be protected under single new conservation programme
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has cleared the decks for a single conservation programme for both wetlands and lakes. On February 7 it approved the merging of the National Lake Conservation Plan and the National Wetlands Conservation Programme. These two centrally sponsored schemes are currently being implemented by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
The new integrated programme will be called the National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Eco-systems (NPCA). It will be operational during the 12th Plan period and will cost an estimated Rs 900 crore, with the Central government and respective state governments sharing the cost in the ratio 70:30. The Central government and the governments of north-eastern states would share the cost in the ratio 90:10.
NPCA, it is hoped, will help promote better synergy and avoid overlap of administrative functions. It will be governed by a uniform policy and clear guidelines, and will operate through the implementation of sustainable conservation plans. The principal objectives of NPCA will be holistic conservation and restoration of lakes and wetlands through an integrated and multidisciplinary approach with a common regulatory framework.
This will enable enhancement of water quality, as well as enrichment of biodiversity and the ecosystem. The scheme will also contribute to reduction of pollution loads and improvement in goods and services provided by these water bodies to stakeholders, say ministry officials.
The new scheme includes within its scope the conservation and management of lakes and wetlands, the maintenance of an inventory and information system on these water bodies, a national-level directive on criteria for lakes and wetlands, a regulatory framework, the inclusion of capacity building at state government and local body levels, and evaluation.
The proposal was earlier placed before the CCEA in its meeting held on March 1 last year, when the water resources ministry had raised some objections and the CCEA had directed MoEF to revert after addressing the concerns.
Wetlands are shallow water-bodies with high biodiversity and productivity. They play an important role in bio-geochemical cycles and have potential for wastewater treatment. Lakes, on the other hand, are relatively deep water bodies, valued primarily for their large volumes of water. They are used as a source of drinking water and for navigation, irrigation, improving micro-climate and have eco-tourism potential.