Chennai floods: Wake up call for water bodies revival


The disastrous floods in Chennai is a reminder to people of the havoc that may be caused as a result of diminishing water bodies due to the onslaught of a growing city with unplanned development.

Wetlands consisting of lakes, ponds, tanks etc. are rich biodiversity storehouses, which are gradually being wiped out to make way for the numerous constructions. While lakes make up barely 3% of the global landscape, they effectively bury more carbon than all the oceans in the world combined.

India has thousands of such water bodies, which were given immense importance by the traditional communities. However the developmental boom has shifted the focus from such less apparent resources to ones which generate more direct revenue.

The water bodies in Meerut are undergoing qualitative analysis by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW). The mapping and study of just 120 water bodies in a single district can demonstrate how unsustainable development can threaten not only the present environmental condition but also become a cause for possible economic downfall in the future.

Dying traditional water bodies across the country should be given prime importance and revival must be carried out immediately through well-planned strategies involving multi-stakeholders.

Studies and surveys should also be carried out to understand why these water bodies are being neglected in the first place. A mass behavioral change is essential for a good conservation plan.

Awareness programmes need to be initiated to educate common people on the virtues of such water bodies and the negative effects that might evolve from water pollution. If the damaging effects of pollution on the people’s health are properly intimated to them, the masses can be mobilized to protect their own resources.

It is the PILs filed against the negative health effects of polluted water bodies that have been instrumental in bringing about most cases of lake revival. Community participation is mandatory for drastic changes in this field which can be sustained over time.

Since these water bodies can often bring in more services than the same land area, proper evaluation must be made as to the price of such a water body, and adequate compensation should be made while carrying out any projects on them. Assigning a ‘price’ could increase the pressure on different bodies to work towards their preservation and protection.

A proper water monitoring system would be able to cut down a large number of pollutants. Binding laws would reduce the chances of illegal developers taking over any such water bodies.

The water bodies need to be regularly checked for their quality. This work can be carried out quite easily by local institutions. The area and quality of the water bodies undergo seasonal changes which must be studied and the results made available to the common public, so they can take up steps for their betterment.

Compared to the funds allocated for projects such as irrigation development, the financial assistance required for public surveys, water quality analysis, GIS mapping or the development of information systems would be far less, making this a feasible initiative.