Urban wetlands

GS 3 ENVIRONMENT Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


        Wetlands serve a function by developing greater biodiversity and natural and pleasant recreation areas for city dwellers.         
Urban wetlands should be designed in such a way that they allow for the possibility that the water running into them from the urban surroundings is more polluted than in a natural environment.

Contemporary Issue:

  • WWF Risk Filter analysis
    • 100 cities globally will be facing ‘severe water scarcity’ by 2050.
    • These cities are home to around 350 million people. 
    • Climate change and rising population
      • the total population of these cities could increase from 17% in 2020 to 51% by 2050
      • have been cited as underlying factors.
    • countries need to make the spread of urbanisation more even apart from undertaking urgent climate action.
    • Two Indian cities Jaipur (45) and Indore (75) feature in the list. 
    • Apart from these two, 28 other Indian cities are likely to face ‘increasing water risks in the next few decades’, 
      • including Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Delhi and Vishakapatnam.

Importance :

  • provides important ecological services 
    • that contribute to watershed functions
    • most notably in pollutant removal
    • flood attenuation
    • groundwater recharge and discharge
    • shoreline protection
    • wildlife habitat.
  • The benefit generally increases as total wetland cover increases in a watershed.
  • are highly productive ecosystems that provide the world with nearly two-thirds of its fish harvest.
  • play an integral role in the ecology of the watershed. 
    • The combination of shallow water, high levels of nutrients is ideal for the development of organisms
    • that form the base of the food web and feed many 
      • species of fish
      • amphibians
      • shellfish
      • insects.
  • Wetlands’ microbes, plants and wildlife are part of global cycles for water, nitrogen and sulphur.
  • helps in the elimination of phosphates, nitrates, solid substances and heavy metals.
  • Wetlands store carbon within their plant communities and soil 
    • instead of releasing it to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
  • Wetlands function as natural barriers that trap and slowly release 
    • surface water
    • rain
    • snowmelt
    • groundwater 
    • flood waters.
  • Wetland vegetation also 
    • slow the speed of flood waters 
    • lowering flood heights 
    • reduces soil erosion.
  • Wetlands are critical to human and planet life. 
    • More than one billion people depend on them for a living.
    • 40% of the world’s species live and breed in wetlands.
  • Numerous researchers have quantified the economic benefits provided by wetlands in a watershed.
    • When wetlands are lost or degraded by land development
      • these services must often be replaced by costly water treatment and flood control infrastructure.
    • wetland conservation and restoration should be an integral part of a comprehensive local watershed management strategy.

Current Scenario:

  • These lake ecosystems are presently endangered due to anthropogenic disturbances caused by Urbanisation 
  • as they have been heavily degraded due to pollution from 
    • disposal of untreated local sewage 
    • due to encroachment
  • resulting in shrunken lakes.

Still needs more attention:

  • Even after 26 years of pollution abatement works
    • only 10% of waste water generated in the country is treated.
    • The rest collects as cess pools or is discharged into the 14 major, 55 minor and several hundred other rivers.
  • It is quite clear that the overall status of quality of water in rivers, lakes and its links to groundwater has not been adequately addressed.
    • Out of the 43 Indian guidelines passed by the central and state government
      • 41% of those talk about conservation and restoration of waterbodies 
      • but only 10% exactly describe the conservative measure.
      • Only 22% of the guidelines are on subjects related to policies to be adopted by state government, urban local bodies etc.
  • This clearly identifies the missing links and marks the future prospects that India should adopt for the preparation of better and sustainable lake management plans.

Way Forward 

  • Developing urban wetlands and watershed 
    • are crucial to containing the crisis. 
    • The Smart Cities initiative’s framework for water management also must be implemented.
  • To counter unplanned urbanization and a growing population, management of wetlands 
    • has to be an integrated approach in terms of planning, execution and monitoring.
  • Effective collaborations among 
    • academicians 
    • professionals
    • including ecologists
    • watershed management specialists
    • planners and decision makers 
      • for overall management of wetlands.
  • Spreading awareness 
    • by initiating awareness programs 
      • about the importance of wetlands and constant monitoring of wetlands for their water quality 
      • would provide vital inputs to safeguard the wetlands from further deterioration.
  • In order to operationalise water management for a water-secure future
    • public funding for sustainable economic growth is the need of the hour.
  • From cutting greenhouse gas emissions to reclaiming waste ware, cities must have a multi-pronged response.


      Beyond that, the country needs to implement rainwater harvesting, micro-irrigation, etc, while transitioning away from water-guzzling crops and pricing water correctly to discourage wastage.        
Without a holistic outlook on water, the country suffer – research shows a clear link between water-stress and conflict.

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