The Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules,2017, defines “wetland" as an area of marsh, fen, peatland or water; whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters, but does not include river channels, paddy fields, human-made water bodies/tanks specifically constructed for drinking water purposes and structures specifically constructed for aquaculture, salt production, recreation and irrigation purposes.
The Government of Tamil Nadu have issued Government orders vide G.O. (Ms) No.59, Environment, Climate Change & Forests (FR.9) Department, Dated 25.03.2022 for implementation of the “Tamil Nadu Wetlands Mission”, for a period of five years from 2021-2022 to 2025-2026 for an amount of Rs.115.15 crores for ecological restoration of 100 wetlands in a period of five years with a focus on livelihood. As per vision, 100 Wetlands have been identified which shall be mapped and ecologically restored based on the Integrated Management Plan (IMP) in consultation with the wetland owning Departments, NGOs, local communities, students etc... Recently during the year 2022, the state of Tamil Nadu got 13 new Ramsar sites after a long gap of 20 years taking the number of Ramsar sites that are wetlands of International importance to 14 out of a total of 75 in the country
5th June on the occasion of World Environment Day 2023 the Tamil Nadu Wetlands Mission has been launched by the Hon’ble Minister for Forests in the esteemed presence of the Hon’ble Minister for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, Government of Tamil Nadu. During the said launch function the ecological restoration of Otteri Lake located within the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur was initiated which was attended by the Hon’ble Member of Parliament, Kancheepuram Constituency, Member of Legislative Assembly, Chengalpattu Constituency, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Forest, District Collector, Chengalpattu District, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Head of Forest Force), Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Wildlife Warden, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Member Secretary, Tamil Nadu State Wetland Authority, NGO’s, wetland mitras, students and local communities.
The Otteri Lake has a catchment area of about 0.91 sq. km and receives water from the canals across the Zoo area and the adjoining Vandalur Reserve forest. The water spread area of the lake is about 16 acres with a storage capacity of 2.22 million cubic feet, and about 12 species of bird breeds in the trees found in and around the lake area. The objective of the ecological restoration of this lake is to increase the water storage capacity so that habitat quality for resident and migratory birds improve along with the biodiversity status of flora and fauna.
Under the Wetlands Mission, the ecological restoration of the wetlands shall be undertaken with the active involvement of the local communities, NGO’s and students for the conservation and protection of local biodiversity, improving the water holding capacity, water purification, livelihood of the local communities. So far 187 Iranila Nanbargal have been enrolled under the Tamil Nadu Wetlands Mission to make the mission a people’s mission as per the instruction of the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. During the launch function, 5 Iranina Nanbargal have been rewarded for their round-the-year lake restoration activities. This will motivate the NGO’s and other stakeholders to get involved in the ecological restoration of all 100 wetlands with community participation.
Some of the activities which shall be undertaken as part of ecological restoration wetlands works are as follows:
(a) Ecological restoration Process
(b) Community interaction & knowledge transfer activities
Ecological activities shall be promoted in all the wetlands for improving the awareness of the people about the ecological, economic and cultural importance of the wetlands so that these natural assets are protected on a long-term basis.