[Answered] Wetlands are nature’s shock absorbers. Their degradation in cities is not good for the urban future. Discuss.

Introduction: Contextual introduction.

Body: Explain why degradation of wetlands is not good for the urban future.

Conclusion: Write a way forward.

Wetlands include mangroves, peatlands and marshes, rivers and lakes, deltas, floodplains and flooded forests, rice-fields, and even coral reefs. According to estimates by Wetlands International (WI), nearly two of every five wetlands in India have lost their natural existence in the last 30 years.

Why its degradation is not good for the urban future?

  • Tsunami prevention:Mangroves absorb and disperse tidal surges associated with these events a mangrove can reduce the destructive force of a tsunami by up to 90%.
  • Flood prevention:  Wetlands act as nature’s shock absorbers. In the river basins, they act as natural sponges, absorbing rainfall, creating wide surface pools and reduce the impact of flooding in rivers.
  • Natural water filters: Wetlands are the world’s water filters which trap pollutants such as phosphorus and heavy metals in their soils, transform dissolved nitrogen into nitrogen gas, and break down suspended solids to neutralize harmful bacteria.
  • Regulation of stream flow: Wetlands are often compared to sponges, in their ability to absorb water in wet periods, and release it during dry periods. E.g. encroachment and construction on urban wetlands like the Pallikaranai marsh in Chennai have made cities susceptible to flooding.
  • Sediment trapping: Wetlands reduce runoff velocity, and wetland vegetation is effective in trapping and retaining sediment.
  • Phosphate and nitrate assimilation: Wetland removes the phosphates and nitrates carried by runoff water through its vegetation and the action of anaerobic bacteria.
  • Erosion control: Wetlands can limit the extent of erosion, predominantly through the protection provided by vegetation, and through their ability to reduce stream flow velocity.
  • Industrial benefits:Wetlands also provide important benefits for industry. For example, they form nurseries for fish and other freshwater and marine life and are critical to commercial and recreational fishing industries.
  • Wetlands not only support high concentrations of biodiversity, but also offer a wide range of important resources and ecosystem services like food, water, fiber, groundwater recharge, water purification, carbon storage and climate regulation.

Unless greater awareness is created about the benefits of wetland conservation and urban planning actively incorporates preservation of these bodies – Delhi Master Plan 2041 is a good start – the situation will worsen. A multi-pronged approach that brings together various stakeholders is the need of the hour.

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