Urgent! Calling all citizens to reject the Draft Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2016 which pose a serious threat to India’s wetlands. Let us demand the ministry new Rules through a scientific, consultative and participatory process. Act now by signing this petition!

While the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) never implemented the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2010, it has now brought out a new and seriously watered down Draft Wetland Rules 2016 (in Hindi, followed by English). The New Rules can jeopardise wetland conservation in the country and need to be rejected in their entirety.

We request you to kindly send your comments to the ministry ASAP. You can sign the form below and the contents of the letter will be emailed to the MoEFCC. Or you can write your own email to the following officials: b.sikka@gov.in, ram.jindal@nic.in and c.singh@nic.in. The last date for sending comments is 6th June 2016. Our wetlands need protection, not degradation!

Thank you for your support!

This campaign is now closed. Watch this space for further updates on this campaign.

For a complete analysis of the Draft Wetland Rules 2016 and for a detailed overview of the role of wetlands please check the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) website.

The analysis identifies key issues with the new Rules:

  1. Entirely Dismantled the Central Wetland Authority. There is no role for the centre to play in wetland conservation or protection. This is emphasized by a sentence added in the Preamble of the Rules which states: “State Governments need to take into account wetland ecosystem services and biodiversity values within their developmental programming, also taking into cognizance that land and water, two major ecological constituents of wetland ecosystems are enlisted as State subjects within the Constitution”. It has been argued that one of the main reasons for diluting Wetlands Rules was to give more authority to States as land and water are state subjects. This reason alone is unacceptable for a number of reasons. Firstly, Wetlands are far more than state subjects of “water” and “land”. To see wetlands only limited to land and water shows environmental bankruptcy, since wetlands are much more than that. Secondly, six years after the Wetland Rules of 2010 were notified, the states have shown no initiative or will to even prepare a Brief Document for protecting wetlands in their territories. Where is the precedent? This is precisely the quagmire where centre needs to firmly guide the states towards taking sustainable steps in protecting natural resources. But the Center seems to have abdicated its responsibility. Thirdly, wetlands are an important ecological entity giving multiple services to the society and their protection lies firmly in the realm of Environment, which is under the concurrent purview as per Indian Constitution. Ironically, there is no decentralization here either. There is no role for the local community to play, unlike the Framework Rules. So it is still as centralized as ever.
  2. No role for local communities or non-governmental members in the State Wetland Authorities The State Wetland Authority consists of 15 members, Chaired by the Chief Minister with Secretaries of various departments as members. It includes only 4 expert members, which can be from the government. There is no space for community participation, NGO participation or independent experts in this Authority. The same Authority is entrusted with taking highly technical decisions about the Ecological Character and Ecosystem Goods and Services of Wetlands, when there is no such expertise on board.
  3. No criteria or even a Guideline for Wetlands which should be notified by the State. It’s all upto the State’s inclination! No mention of wetlands on the basis of their uses, size, ecological importance, heritage sites, etc.
  4. No criteria about the minimum and maximum areas of Wetlands that state has to notify
  5. No mention even of Wetlands of National Importance
  6. No mention of how Ramsar Wetlands would be governed
  7. No mention of Interstate and Transboundary wetlands and how these would be governed and by whom
  8. No guidelines about activities that should be Prohibited or even Regulated in the Wetlands by States! Section 6: Process of Notification of Wetlands does not even mention the word prohibition. On the other hand, it talks about “Lists of uses permitted within the wetlands”! No guidelines or specifications about Regulated Activities.
  9. The State Wetland Authority does not have Powers to Prohibit any activity in the Wetlands, only regulate them!
  10. State Wetland Authority does not have any authority to take Penal Action against parties who violate the Rules.
  11. It is not clear which department will be coordinating these activities. In 2010 Rules, it was made clear that Forest Department would be entrusted with this responsibility.
  12. The provision of Appeal Against Decision of Authority in NGT, namely the Section 9 of Wetland Rules 2010 is missing in Draft Rules 2016.
  13. The State Wetland Authority is now asked to demarcate Wetlands, when this exercise has already been mostly completed for the entire country by ISRO through its National Wetland Atlas!
  14. The Chief Executive of the state, the Chief Minister, is also head of the state Wetlands Authority, there is clearly a conflict of interest.
  15. Wetland Rules 2010 had timelines from notification to other stages, the Draft Rules 2016 has no timeline, no process.
  16. The only clause which talks about Restriction of Activities in Wetlands is so broad-based and nonspecific, that it is nearly unimplementable: “Restrictions of activities in wetlands.—(I) The wetlands shall be conserved and managed in accordance with principle of ‘wise use’ for maintaining their ecological integrity.” Now, the principles of Wise Use, Ecosystem Approach and Ecologic Integrity etc., though used rampantly in Ramsar parlance, are slippery terms which have no specific application. Use of such words ensures that the Act lacks any specificity and teeth.

Also, read what the media has been reporting on the issue on the right. 

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