• Wetland Construction: Design Strategies To Co-Exist With Nature

    Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil or is present either at or near the soil’s surface during varying times of the year. Water saturation (hydrology) largely determines how the soil develops and the types of plants and animal communities living alongside it. Wetland construction will take place accordingly after considering the facts about both aquatic and terrestrial species around. The prolonged presence of water creates conditions that favour the growth of specially adapted plants and promote the development of characteristic wetland soil. Such factors and their considerations guide the strategies for wetland construction in any place.

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    Wetlands vary widely because of regional and local differences in soils, topography, climate, hydrology, water chemistry, vegetables, and other factors, including human disturbance. Such factors then affect the wetland construction strategies that one adopts while designing over or near the wetlands. These wetlands are the natural resource for some species to carry out their daily lives; hence, their presence must be valued by taking calculative steps while doing wetland construction. In order to do efficient wetland construction, one must know the types of wetlands that are formed in nature.

    Conserving the Wetlands

    Wetlands regulate water and filter waste from the landscape. They are primary sources of freshwater, buffers against floods and droughts, recyclers of nutrients and chemicals, and inextricably intertwined with our culture and identity. Wetlands are a source of livelihood and food and are home to biodiversity. Around 4.63% of the geographical area of India is covered by wetlands. Several people depend on wetlands for their livelihood as well as for food and water. Some wetlands also play a role in combating the impacts of climate change, like floods and extreme weather events. Wetlands are also among the earth’s top carbon stores, and their conservation can help reduce carbon emissions.

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    The Ramsar Convention International Treaty for Conservation of Wetlands, ratified by the Government of India in 1982, provides a framework for national action and international cooperation for conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. Many such initiatives are taken by the government in order to save the existing wetlands and conserve them in better ways. Since we have a need for wetland construction, the government has provided us with several treaties and policies that would benefit everyone who conserves these wetlands.

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    The conservation of wetlands is a moral responsibility of the people of India. As part of the natural environment, wetlands are also protected by the legislation. The Indian Environment Protection Act of 1986 is legislation to provide protection and improvement in the environment, including, inter alia, wetlands. The National Environment Policy of 2006 recognises the ecosystem services provided by wetlands. Specific to wetlands are the Wetlands Conservation and Management Rules, 2017, notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Climate Change under the provisions of the Environment Act, 1986.

    Government Initiatives For Wetland Conservation

    The rules serve as a regulatory framework for the conservation and management of wetlands in India. Such policies, rules, and regulations formed by the government have made wetland construction possible in India. For the people doing wetland construction, it is utmost necessary in today’s world. There are a lot of government initiatives and projects that are being formulated in different parts of the country.

    1. Sundarbans Mangroves Restoration, West Bengal, India

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    In the year 2020, the heavy damage to the Sundarbans mangroves from cyclone Amphan prompted a mega plantation drive of five crore mangroves under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

    The state of forests in India report over the years shows that between 1987 and 2021, Sundarbans mangrove cover varied between 2076 sq km and 2155 sq km. However, in 15 years between 2007 and 2021, the Sundarbans’ very dense mangrove cover has come down from 1038 sq km to 994 sq km. At the same time, moderately dense cover suffered a greater loss from 881 sq km to 692 sq km.

    In recent decades, there has been an insignificant level of enthusiasm among government officials, politicians, and non-government organisations for planting mangroves on earth to create a shield against the encroaching sea and cyclone storm surges.

    Mangrove plantations for protecting coastlines from cyclones, storm surges, and erosion became a popular theme worldwide after the 2004 Asian Tsunami. In the Sundarbans region, it gained popularity, particularly after Cyclone Alia in 2009. Millions of mangroves have been planted along suitable coastal areas worldwide since then, which include the Sundarbans.

    2. Restoration of Thol Lake Ecosystem, A Wetland Revival Story, Gujarat, India

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    Thol Lake, located near Ahmedabad, Gujarat, is an essential wetland ecosystem. It is a critical resting and feeding ground for migratory birds. Over the years, pollution and urban sprawl have threatened its ecological health. This project aims at conserving and restoring the lake ecosystems. This is done by enhancing water quality, mitigating pollution, promoting eco-tourism, and engaging local communities in the conservation process. They are conserving the lake by:

    Cleaning up the wetland: They are reducing pollution and siltation in the lake, including constructing sedimentation basins and artificial islands.

    Making water cleaner: they are setting up plants to treat wastewater before it enters the lake.

    Bird conservation:  Thol lake now attracts bird-watchers and eco-tourists, providing economic incentives for local communities.

    Community involvement: They are engaging people in the area in lake clean-up drives, and awareness campaigns.

    Rules and Regulation of Wetland Construction

    If a person chooses to do wetland construction, some rules and guidelines will help one design while conserving the wetlands and environment.

    1. Assessment of wetland

    Before starting the wetland construction one must thoroughly analyze the wetland and its existing conditions, such as its hydrology, soil condition, and vegetation species. This will help one decide on what type of wetland construction can happen in the place.

    2. Seeking the Officials

    One must consider contacting the local government planning office to know the site better and to get professional help for wetland construction.

    3. Analyzing the Soil

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    To know how deep and steady one can go while doing wetland construction, one must have better knowledge of the existing soil. This knowledge would affect the decision of the type of wetland construction and its materials.

    4. Knowing the Water and Hydrology

    In wetland construction, there is a chance that the water quality and the substances present in the water will affect the materials. Hence, knowing the hydrology of the land before starting any wetland construction will be helpful in further process. Proper testing of the substances and their composition will define their use for wetland construction.

    5. Deciding The Type of construction

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    If a wetland is wide enough one can build modular homes on the site. This will save the cost and time of wetland construction. 

    6. Considering Green Elements

    The houses built on wetlands can make green roofs and rainwater collection systems in wetland construction. This will help minimize runoff and improve energy efficiency.

    Protection of Wetlands

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    According to the conduct of Conservation of Wetlands in India, the rules in the Wetlands Conservation and Management 2017, it is necessary to build 20 to 30 meters away from the wetlands. Wetlands must be protected by putting proper stilts and providing enough fencing not to cause any harm.

    Looking at the importance of wetlands for the ecosystem, one must understand how to conserve them accordingly. No doubt, urbanisation needs are increasing day by day, but conservation of wetlands through wetland construction must be considered. Following the guidelines and conservation projects by the government must be taken into consideration while doing the wetland construction. Wetlands provide us with natural water and the availability of vegetation and other soil requirements. These benefits further help the environment find the balance for a better climate. Hence, wetland construction must bring better balance and not turn out to be hazardous in any manner.

    Content Writing And Research By: Ar. Rajeshwari Pandya Modi

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