World Wetlands Day in India
World Wetland Day 2007
South Asian Forum for Environment
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
South Asian Forum for Environment, SAFE marked the worldwide celebration of Wetland Day 2007 by organizing a seminar on "Restoration of East Kolkata Wetlands: A threatened Ramsar site" on 2nd Feb, at 2pm. The event was held at the auditorium of Bidhannagar Government College in Saltlake, Kolkata.
The occasion unfolded an opportunity to trigger a discussion on the social and ecological status of these precious wetlands on the basis of a recent survey conducted by SAFE at East Kolkata Wetlands. The event was chaired by Co-Chair, SAFE, Dr. Dipayan Dey, of Society for Wetlands Scientists International & alumni to Sustainable Environment Development programme of United Nations University. Dr. Dey enthralled the audience by his audio-visual presentation showing the value of wetlands in the eco-system. He also revealed the survey results recently conducted by SAFE in six model segments of East Kolkata Wetlands. On the basis of the survey report SAFE contemplated an action plan to save the vanishing East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW), recently facing a threat of getting de-listed from the Ramsar list due to increasing pollution and encroachment leading to desertification of wetlands. SAFE plans towards restoration of East Kolkata Wetlands includes, GIS mapping, habitat evaluation, Environmental Impact Assessment, biodiversity and water body permanence indexing along with socio-economic activities like awareness campaigns, poverty alleviation and initiating the use of bio-rights as a financial tool.
However, the towering spirit of saving the wetlands seemed roaring as active participation was marked by over 200 people including scientists, academicians, social workers, journalists, and local stakeholders and under graduate students. The event also helped to contemplate a decision support system in presence of the local fishermen and called for more participation of women at the community level.
Participants expressed their views, students appealed for more involvement to save the wetlands from getting de-listed from the prestigious Ramsar list. Many felt that wetland restoration has been pushed to the bottom of a very long priority list of the policy makers. SAFE team observed that most students in the feedback form have mentioned that "It is a big mistake to ignore wetlands problems, stern measures should be taken to seize unscrupulous encroachment".
Dr. Dey, further said "The future of city's ecological health is tied to the health of its wetlands. This giant sponge absorbs about 980 million liters of untreated sewage recycling it through a resource recovery system developed and maintained by the local commune."
Dr. D.R Mandal, Principal of Bidhannagar college said, "Wetlands are bio-diversity storehouses, it harbors 52 endemic fishes most of which are endangered now. It also happens to be the only home for the endangered marsh Mangoose and mud-Turtles, thus restoration efforts certainly aren't starry eyes environmentalism, more and more people shall involve correcting the flawed approach to wetlands that stripped the bio-diversity and endangered those living in it."
South Asian Forum for Environment & Bidhannagar College jointly launched a curriculum on "Restoration of EKW" which includes development of a wetland inventory, workshop on eco-tourism and camps to create awareness in the locale.
The seminar turned out to be a platform for the local stakeholders to develop a common strategic vision in wetlands management and the challenges and resulting priorities of future action towards achieving sustainable development goals. The closing of the wetland day festivities for this year would observed as "Jala Bhumi Utsav" to be held on 11-12th March, 2007 at the Natar Bheri fish pond of EKW. SAFE will commence the formation of self help groups during this event and will treat over 250 local inhabitants and delegates with delicacies of local fish.