Delhi's Waterbodies Face Neglect and Encroachment Despite Protection Efforts

Delhi's 1,045 waterbodies, including ponds, face neglect and encroachment despite a 2019 authority establishment and a 2024 court-ordered deadline for rejuvenation. Many waterbodies have been filled or converted into other uses, such as community centers, due to poor maintenance and government agency confusion.

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Delhi's Waterbodies Face Neglect and Encroachment Despite Protection Efforts

Delhi's Waterbodies Face Neglect and Encroachment Despite Protection Efforts

Delhi, India's bustling capital city, is grappling with a pressing environmental concern as many of its 1,045 waterbodies, including ponds in Shahbad Mohammadpur and Paprawat, face neglect and encroachment. Despite the establishment of the Delhi Wetland Authority in 2019 and a Delhi High Court order mandating the geo-tagging and rejuvenation of these waterbodies by 2024, the situation on the ground remains dire.

Why this matters: The preservation of Delhi's waterbodies is crucial for maintaining the city's ecological balance and ensuring the health and well-being of its residents. If left unchecked, the destruction of these waterbodies could lead to devastating consequences, including flooding, water scarcity, and loss of biodiversity.

Numerous examples of encroachment and neglect have come to light in recent years. In Kanganheri village, a pond was filled with concrete, sand, and cement to make way for a community center. Similarly, in Shahbad Mohammadpur, two local johads (ponds) were converted into a playground and a concretized, abandoned site. Budhela, another locality, witnessed the replacement of a water body with a community center.

Experts attribute this alarming trend to various factors. Residents are often lured into trading their local waterbodies for better facilities, such as roads or community centers, due to the poor maintenance of these waterbodies by government agencies. Paras Tyagi, co-founder of the Centre for Youth Culture Law and Environment (CYCLE), questions the concept of legal encroachment, stating, "What does that mean? [Legal encroachment]?"

Government agencies themselves are often responsible for encroachment, with multiple agencies owning these wetlands, leading to confusion over who is responsible for their revival and maintenance. The consequences of such neglect can be devastating for the city's ecology. Tyagi warns, "Such a trade-off would be dangerous for the city's ecology. Cities such as Bengaluru and Chennai are facing the brunt of building over its waterbodies. Why can't we learn from their mistakes?"

A 2020 study conducted by CYCLE revealed the extent of the problem, finding that 302 waterbodies in Delhi were partially or fully encroached, 100 were shrinking due to garbage and sewage deposits, and 345 had completely dried up. These findings underscore the urgent need for action to protect and restore Delhi's precious waterbodies.

As the deadline set by the Delhi High Court approaches, it remains to be seen whether the authorities will take the necessary steps to safeguard these vital ecosystems. The preservation of Delhi's waterbodies is not only crucial for the city's environmental well-being but also for the health and quality of life of its residents. The time for action is now, before it's too late to undo the damage caused by years of neglect and encroachment.

Key Takeaways

  • Delhi's 1,045 waterbodies face neglect and encroachment, threatening the city's ecological balance.
  • Preservation of waterbodies is crucial for preventing flooding, water scarcity, and loss of biodiversity.
  • Encroachment and neglect are often driven by poor maintenance and lure of better facilities.
  • 302 waterbodies in Delhi are partially or fully encroached, 100 are shrinking, and 345 have dried up.
  • Urgent action is needed to protect and restore Delhi's waterbodies before it's too late.