The government of the city of Delhi has embarked on an ambitious programme to identify water bodies within the city limits that have gone “extinct”. The purpose is to protect the lakes, rivers, and wetlands against encroachments.
The Wetland Authority of Delhi expects to be able, by January 2023, to specifically protect at least 20 water bodies from illegal dumping of garbage, discharge of untreated wastewater and effluent from industries, and any further construction or expansion of industries on or near such named water body.
According to the Authority, there are 1,043 water bodies in the capital that have been allotted unique identification numbers; 1,014 of these have been mapped on a GIS platform.
A technical committee of the Authority is reviewing over 250 water bodies that have become “extinct” through construction or other forms of wetland degradation. The extinction is attributable in part to both public and private development for services such as educational facilities, government buildings, commercial purposes, recreational facilities, and illegal settlements.
The committee is reviewing these sites to determine reclamation possibilities (a “green list”) and those that cannot be restored (a “red list”).
On the condition of anonymity, a member of the committee is widely reported as having commented: "Field teams have been constituted for ground truthing. These will collect crucial information such as the historic spread of these water bodies, their capacity, how they went extinct, who was responsible, what has come up in their place, etc."
The committee is planning to extract compensation for the loss of wetland services and will request any “encroacher” to provide alternate land for the development of wetlands. Some members of the committee are recommending the imposition of penalties and removal of the encroachment, if possible.
These efforts are considered by some to be the last attempt to reclaim some of the “extinct” wetlands.