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Save the wetlands
Posted On Saturday, February 02, 2008

On the occasion of World Wetlands Day various organisations and citizens group undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and its benefits

Qasim Mehdi

February 2 is celebrated as World Wetlands Day (WWD) throughout the world as the occasion marks the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar, which is situated on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Though WWD was celebrated for the first time in 1997, it made an encouraging beginning.

And now, every year, government agencies, non-governmental organisations, and groups of citizens at all levels of the community take advantage of the opportunity to undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and its benefits.

Likewise, Enviro-Vigil, an organisation has initiated a drive to save the mangroves along the Thane creek. Asserting unplanned urbanistaion and pollution as the major reason for the decline of mangroves, Dr Nagesh Tekale, a reader in Botany and one of the directors of the organistaion, says, "There are about 11 species of mangroves in the Thane creek, however, there is a 10 per cent decline in the quantity of mangroves in the Thane creek."

Moreover, Professor Vidyadhar Walavalkar, Managing Director, Enviro-Vigil, says, "The water in the Thane creek has become sluggish and polluted.

The reason behind the same is the construction of bridges at various spots. The debris of the construction material prevents the inflow of fresh water from Mumbai thus reducing the PH balance from nine per cent to seven per cent. This affects the proper growth of mangroves and makes them weak to withstand environmental and physical changes.

" He further adds that due to the decline of mangroves the number of migratory birds has drastically gone down.
He further adds that the pollution has also contributed a lot towards the decline of wetlands of the suburb. "The sewage water let in the Thane creek is often untreated and thus acts as toxins for the mangroves. It also affects the growth of zoo planktons (protein rich microscopic organisms) which is the favourite food of fishes and other creatures that dwell in the creek."

Advantages of  wetlands  Wetlands provide habitat for plants and animals such as amphibians, fish, reptiles, mammals and birds Wetlands help control flood waters by acting like a giant sponge, absorbing water during heavy rainfall then slowly releasing it back into the ecosystem Wetlands can assist in erosion control as they are often located between water bodies and high ground.

The roots of the vegetation help to protect soil from high impact events such as wave action or heavy rainfall events Wetlands are important culturally and for recreational activities Wetlands enhance water quality as they act like giant kidneys, purifying and processing nutrients, suspended materials and other pollutants