By Sonia Kumari, IUCN CEM Young Professional.
Wetlands are one of the world’s most productive ecosystems and play a pivotal role in ecological and economic wellbeing benefits. The ecological role of these wetlands is being undervalued, resulting in widespread loss and degradation. It is estimated that 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900. In some regions, like Asia, the damage is even higher. Inland wetlands (including urban wetlands) are disappearing at a faster pace than coastal ones, but the overall trend is clear that wetlands and their benefits are being lost.
With over half of the world’s population residing in urban areas, which is expected to further increase by 60% in 2050, the picture of the urban wetland is gloomy. The urban wetland forms an integral part of the urban area, where they act as a sink to absorb excess rainfall, reduce flood and minimize subsequent infrastructure and economic damage. In the present scenarios where water is becoming a scarce commodity, very critical to arid and semi-arid states, the role of the wetlands can not be ignored. However, during the last few decades, the skyrocketing rate of urbanization has drastically impacted urban wetlands.
The poor urban planning has altered the landscape of cities resulting in indiscriminate land-use changes to accommodate real estate construction at the cost of the natural water system, especially wetlands. In urban areas, wetlands, are perceived not less than ‘ditches’ or ‘wastelands’ meant for the disposal of all kinds of wastes.
This picture is not much different for the Gujarat state, one of the prime urbanized state along the coastal belt of India. The state exhibits semi-arid and arid climatic conditions and is one among the vulnerable states in the Indian subcontinent under the present dynamics of climate change. This urgency calls for a holistic approach where a combination of enhanced awareness, capacity building, improved waste management and involvement of local communities, could be used to deduce effective management plans and sustainable solutions.
Gujarat Ecology Society (GES), a research-based NGO and active member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), has closely monitored the status of wetlands of Vadodara City, and in a span of 15 years from 2005 to 2020; about 36% of the wetlands have disappeared. Looking at the urgency of the situation, the organization has decided to conduct a “Two-day national workshop on conservation and management of urban wetland (WCMW-2020)” [3–4 March 2020] with support from IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management, at Vadodara, Gujarat, India.
The planned event is aiming to sensitize the local and young researchers, stakeholders, about the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem management along with strengthening their ability to form policies through capacity building, one of the prime aims of IUCN CEM. The workshop is unique, as it will include expert talks, oral and poster presentations, first-hand field visit and preparation of management plans by the participants, through brainstorming sessions under the guidance of experts. The event will provide a platform for students, researchers, professionals and stakeholder from allied fields to share their knowledge and experience to mitigate the issue of wetland depletion.
Details can be seen here.