Need to protect hill wetlands today to save water for future

A solution to tackling water scarcity in the sun-baked plains could lie high above, in the mountains. A team of researchers from Chennai-based Care Earth Trust is now studying waterbodies in elevated areas, one of the first places of water capture in the hydrological cycle, as part of a major effort to conserve them for sustainability in future.

Started three years ago in the marshes of Dindigul district’s Kodaikanal in the Western Ghats, the location of the study has moved to the Nilgiris, said Avanthika Bhaskar of the Trust. Preliminary research has reiterated that wetlands in the hills are the key to sustaining biodiversity, especially herbaceous plants, birds and mammals.

 Armed with the findings of the study, after it is completed, the state forest department is set to incorporate mountain wetlands in its plans for integrated watershed management and forest conservation, in addition to involving local communities for sustainable use in future, Bhaskar added.

Water stored in swamps and wetlands atop hills is important for recycling. Despite the significance, conducting research into these ‘water towers’ is challenging mostly because of the small size and the subjects often being difficult to map using standard wetland inventory techniques.

In spite of their elevated location, the hydrological characters of the various wetland types — herbaceous wetlands with mineral soils, including marshes, wet meadows and salt flats; peat lands (fens and bogs); and riparian wetlands along streams — change frequently, mainly due to human intervention. For example, in the Nilgiris, when the water runoff from the numerous tea estates dotting the region drains in such wetlands, the chemical residues in the runoff impacts the soil as well as the water quality, said Bhaskar.....Read more
Source web page: Times of India

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