The process of identification of wetlands that has been hit due to COVID-19 induced lockdown is getting further delayed as the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) has sought six months time from the Goa State Biodiversity Board to complete the study.
The Board had earlier granted extension to the project until January 23, 2021 from its initial period of one year. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has come as a dampener delaying the work of interaction with the stakeholders at distant locations in the state and for which NIO has sought extension of time up to July 2021. The exact number of wetlands, that will be finally notified, will depend upon the recommendation of technical committee, grievance committee and the decision of Goa State Wetland Authority (GSWA) based on pre-existing rights and privileges as per rule 7 of the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017.
NIO had resumed field-related activities in first week of August 2020 and so far 42 water bodies are identified as potential wetlands in the state by it and out of these 25 water bodies have been identified as wetlands by the technical committee of the authority under Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017.
Among the 25 water bodies identified as wetlands, ten have been draft notified giving two months time to the public to file their objections and suggestions and the final process of draft notifying remaining 14 water bodies will be placed in GSWA meeting scheduled to be held by February-end.
These ten water bodies are Saulem lake in Pilerne, Toyyar lake in Chimbel, Durga lake in Chinchinim, Batim lake, Sarzora lake, Carambolim lake, Cottambi lake, Dhashi lake in Revora, Nanda and Xeldem lakes of Quepem.
The grievance committee had discussions with the locals to address grievances raised regarding draft notification for these 11 water bodies and it continues to hold discussion.
If the proposal to include ten new wetlands is approved by the public, Goa will have eleven sites protected nationally. Bondvoll Lake in St Cruz was the first to be declared as a ‘Wetland’, as per central Wetland Rules.
The Environment Ministry has prepared a four-pronged strategy for the restoration of wetlands which includes preparing a baseline data, wetland health cards, enlisting wetland ‘mitras’ (friends) and preparation of targeted integrated management plans for priority restoration of 130 new wetlands in the next five years.