Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Twin issues: Shrinking water bodies and floods in urban landscapes


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Urban floods in India

This newscard is an excerpt from the original article published in the D2E.

Try this question for mains:

Q.Shrinking water bodies and floods in urban landscapes are mutually induced by each other. Analyse.

Water in urban landscapes

  • Lakes and wetlands are an important part of the urban ecosystem.
  • They perform significant environmental, social and economic functions — from being a source of drinking water and recharging groundwater to supporting biodiversity and providing livelihoods.
  • Their role becomes even more critical in the present context when cities are facing the challenge of rapid unplanned urbanisation.
  • Their numbers are declining rapidly. For example, Bangalore had 262 lakes in the 1960s; now only 10 of them hold water.

Issues with urban water bodies

  • Natural streams and watercourses, formed over thousands of years due to the forces of flowing water in the respective watersheds, have been altered because of urbanisation.
  • As a result, the flow of water has increased in proportion to the urbanisation of watersheds.
  • Ideally, natural drains should have been widened to accommodate the higher flows of stormwater.
  • But, on the contrary, they have been a victim of various unlawful activities:

(1) Pollution

  • There has been an explosive increase in the urban population without a corresponding expansion of civic facilities such as infrastructure for the disposal of waste.
  • As more people are migrating to cities, urban civic services are becoming less adequate.
  • As a result, most urban water bodies in India are suffering because of pollution. The water bodies have been turned into landfills in several cases.
  • Guwahati’s Deepor Beel, for example, is used by the municipal corporation to dump solid waste since 2006. Even the Pallikarni marshland in Chennai is used for solid waste dumping.

(2) Encroachment

  • This is another major threat to urban water bodies. As more people have been migrating to cities, the availability of land has been getting scarce.
  • Today, even a small piece of land in urban areas has a high economic value.
  • These urban water bodies are not only acknowledged for their ecosystem services but for their real estate value as well.
  • Charkop Lake in Maharashtra, Ousteri Lake in Puducherry, Deepor beel in Guwahati are well-known examples of water bodies that were encroached.

(3) Illegal mining activities

  • Illegal mining for building material such as sand and quartzite on the catchment and bed of the lake have an extremely damaging impact on the water body.
  • For example, the Jaisamand Lake in Jodhpur, once the only source of drinking water for the city, has been suffering from illegal mining in the catchment area.
  • Unmindful sand mining from the catchment of Vembanad Lake on the outskirts of Kochi has decreased the water level in the lake.

(4) Unplanned tourism activities

  • Using water bodies to attract tourists has become a threat to several urban lakes in India.
  • Tso Morari and Pongsho lakes in Ladakh have become polluted because of unplanned and unregulated tourism.
  • Another example is that of Ashtamudi Lake in Kerala’s Kollam city, which has become polluted due to spillage of oil from motorboats.

(5) Absence of administrative framework

  • The biggest challenge is the government apathy towards water bodies.
  • This can be understood from the fact that it does not even have any data on the total number of urban water bodies in the country.
  • Further, CPCB had not identified major aquatic species, birds, plants and animals that faced threat due to pollution of rivers and lakes.

Original article:


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