1) Disappearing Wetlands:
Freshwater wetlands of India are rich repositories of biodiversity and are crucial for the livelihood and survival of millions of people. Unfortunately, these vital ecosystems are facing serious threats from development activities and they are disappearing from the landscape at an alarming rate. Recent studies show that, over last one decade 38% of wetlands of size of more than 2 hectare have disappeared from the Indian landscape. Thus, Karanja Lad is an urban setting had three traditional tanks locally called Rishi Talaw, Sarang Talaw and Chandra Talaw. Encroachment, catchment destruction and dumping city waste ruined these natural entities in merely last 20 years. Bhandara district of Maharashtra has 43,381 tanks, built some 250-300 years ago by a small group of cultivators called Kohlis (Rajankar and Dolke, 2001). However, in present scenario this grand tradition of tanks has destroyed.
2) Degrading Rivers
Over extraction of the riverine resources including water, pollution, dams, anthropogenic disturbances in the catchment and climatic changes are some of the root causes which destroying Indian rivers. In our case, river Adan is largely flow through the agriculture area and un-regulated extraction of the river water makes river dry merely in October or November. Destructive fishing by electric current and poisons and un-regulated sand mining are some of the examples of over extraction of riverine resources. Pollution in case of Adan river are mainly includes agriculture run-off through high input agro-farms, dumping of sugar factory effluent and sewage. The forested region around Adan destroyed in the recent past leading to siltation and ground water depletion.
3) Erosion of Biodiversity
The rate of loss of freshwater species diversity is the fastest for any of the world’s major biomes. Taxonomic groups with the highest proportion of threatened species tend to be those that rely on freshwater habitats. For example, according to the Living Planet Index, the rate of loss of freshwater biodiversity (1970-2000) was almost double that of marine and terrestrial biomes (Loh et al. 2006).
The aquatic biodiversity from Indian rivers, seas and tanks is eroding substantially. The central Indian River systems harbor about 150 species of the fishes (Heda N. 2009). According to
study made by author, it was clear that about 70 % species of the freshwater fishes are declining. In addition, fishes like Anguilla bengalensis completely wiped out from the rivers of this region (Heda N. 2007).
4) Spread of Invasive alien species
The introduction of exotic species is the second leading cause, after habitat degradation, of species extinction in freshwater systems (Hill et al. 1997). Article 8h of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), calls on the Parties to ‘prevent the introduction of, control or eradicate those alien species, which threaten ecosystems, habitats, or species (CBD, Article 8h). In our study area, fishes like Oreochromis mossambica are spreading with unprecedented rate (Heda N. 2007).
5) The ultimate Victims: Traditional Communities
The cascading effect of this ecological meltdown is directly on the local communities, which depend on wetland resources for their subsistence. There are 387 communities of fisher folk throughout the length and breadth of India dependent on 191,024 kilometers of rivers and canals and numerous wetlands and reservoirs (Anonymous, 2002). These communities were evolved over the period to sustainably harness the goods and services from the wetland. These wetland dependent communities are of two kinds viz. Specialist (those of Bhoi and Dhimar) dependent completely and opportunistic (e.g. Gond) dependent partially. Both these communities are the victims of recent changes. Another group of people, following Gadgil and Guha (1992) I call themomnivorous, not directly connected with wetlands, but dependent on these
resources indirectly and enjoying access of resources like water and fishes. The wasteful utilization and lack of awareness among omnivorous is the matter of concern.
There is a vast traditional knowledge possess by traditional communities regarding aquatic habitat and biodiversity (Heda and Kulkarni, 2004). This kind of traditional knowledge is important for the management of natural resources (Gokhale et al. 2005).
6) Responses to change
It was noted that, if livelihood of these communities were in danger then it would negatively affect surrounding biodiversity by exploitation. There are many examples of these kinds of vicious circle e.g. destructive fishing techniques used by traditional fishermen.
There is another dimension to this situation, lack of knowledge about the two things viz. resources and laws, making situation worst. As an example in Maharashtra, there are large numbers of water bodies largely in the possession of the state. Every year, State Fisheries and Irrigation Department auction water bodies to local people, but there is no mechanism of the information disbursement (e.g. how many water bodies? Distribution, their biological characteristics, auction value etc), because of this, those wealthy people, which have access to information, are benefited. As an example, we made a survey of the 106 families and asked them whether they worked for NREGA and if the answer is no then why. Out of 106 families, only 23 families very occasionally worked for the NREGA. 70 % people among not worked for the NREGA argued that they do not know how to secure employment through this act (Jal-Samvad, 2008).
It is also noted that, due to depletion of wetland resources, there is increasing tensions and episodes of conflicts among various user groups. Thus, there is conflict between agriculturist, industries and fishermen for the water or conflicts between traditional fishermen and neo-fishermen for water bodies for fish culture.
Last few decades witnessed substantial increase in the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. After use the residues of pesticides enters into natural watercourses along agriculture runoff and affect aquatic biodiversity.
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