The Maharashtra Environment Department has introduced a mobile application designed to compile a comprehensive database of all wetlands within the state. Initial test trials for the application are scheduled to commence next week. Officials from the department revealed that, according to the atlas created by the Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad, there are 32,000 wetlands in Maharashtra. However, some of these areas, including forested regions, salt pans, and coastal regulation zones, have been inaccurately identified as wetlands.
To rectify this, village revenue officials, known as talathis, will conduct on-the-ground verification to determine the actual wetlands and distinguish them from other designated areas. Satish Gavai, the additional chief secretary of the department, clarified that certain areas with distinct regulations, such as forested regions, salt pans, and coastal zones, will be excluded from the wetland list.
Gavai emphasized that after the ground verification process is completed, the government will possess a comprehensive and accurate dataset of wetlands in the state. He added that during the verification, information will be gathered on whether wetlands are used for animal habitats or by communities in a traditional manner. This data will enable the government to implement preservation measures without disrupting the local way of life.
Officials anticipate that the total count of wetlands may decrease from 32,000 after the verification process. The development of the mobile app for wetland preservation is in response to directives from the Supreme Court in a public interest litigation. Following dummy trials, the app is expected to be officially launched, with ground verification likely to conclude by June, according to officials.
Additionally, the department recently established the State Wetland Authority, headed by the environment minister, in accordance with the Wetland Conservation and Management Rules, 2017. A technical committee has also been formed to support the authority in various tasks, including drafting management plans for wetlands.