CEE Himalaya and JSW Foundation organize World’s Wetland Day 2016

On the occasion of World’s Wetland Day 2016, CEE Himalaya together with the JSW Foundation and RCE Srinagar organized a series of activities for the inhabitants of Kuroli village, a small and picturesque village, located in Bhatwari Block in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. Youths, adults, elderly, school children, teachers, and many others participated in the event.

The CEE Himalaya team tried to establish linkages between wetlands and livelihoods, acknowledging the theme for 2016 ‘Wetlands for our Future: Sustainable Livelihoods’. Other issues like pollution, lack of knowledge and poor maintenance of wetlands in the region, the immediate need to conserve and protect the wetlands as well as knowledge about the unique role of wetlands in the mountains and in hilly districts were explained. CEE Himalaya has been active in promoting ESD in the Indian Himalayan Region and has conducted numerous awareness and educational programmes on wetland conservation, including the fringe areas in the past. Under RCE Srinagar, CEE Himalaya organized programmes for conservation of some prominent wetlands in the Indian Himalaya Region like Dal Lake, Wular Lake and high altitude lakes of Ladakh region.

The programme generated awareness, sensitized local communities on the goods and services, livelihood sources, local food items derived from the lakes and provided them with nature based solution to ecosystem degradation. Apart from local communities, CEE also built capacities of the Forest Department, the J&K Waterways Development Authority, J&K Tourism and other concerned departments for mainstreaming measures essential for the protection of fragile and incredible ecosystems. Uttarkashi is one of the 13 administrative districts of Uttarakhand surrounded by Himachal Pradesh state on the north, Tibet on the northeast, Chamoli District on the east, Rudraprayag District on the southeast and Tehri Garhwal District on the south.

Tourism has been recognized as an important industry in the district of Uttarkashi mainly because of its own serene beauty and as connecting district to the famous pilgrimages- Gangotri and Yamontri. In the district of Uttarkashi, three high altitude wetlands have been mapped. However, there are also 43 small wetlands (less than 2.25 hectares each) with the total area under wetlands in the district being 8,532 hectares. The two major wetlands in the region- the Dodital at an altitude of 3077m are approximately 850m long and 350m wide and the Nachiketa Tal at an altitude of 2390m with an area of 0.45ha. They are the most visited tourist destinations of the district largely due to their seclusiveness and easy approachability. The uncontrolled flux of tourism in the region is leading to unplanned and unsustainable developmental practices destroying the harmonious ecology of the mountains. In recent years, the rate of human induced disaster in the region has increased exponentially, taking thousands of lives, leading to economic and infrastructural losses and leaving thousands of people without a home, food, and employment.

The high altitude wetlands of the region that once were considered as the essential life supporting systems, contributing towards economic health, public safety and improvement in quality of life of the community surrounding it, are today a cause of threat for the entire community. Moreover climate change is showing its impact, resulting in increased volume of water in some wetlands due to melting of ice and snow. This incurs in serious threats for people through catastrophic flooding and landslides. The latest example being the ‘Himalayan Tragedy’ of June 2013 in the state of Uttarakhand. The devastation unleashed in the form of heavy rains, cloudburst, landslides and flash floods is taking a heavy toll on human lives and property. Heavy rains have led to landslides in the region with heavy debris flow damaging public infrastructures such as roads and vital bridges, houses and administrative buildings, schools and health centers. 60 villages in the district of Uttarkashi were cut off making them inaccessible.

In the aftermath of the June 2013 flash floods, CEE Himalaya with the support from JSW Foundation initiated a rehabilitation programme ‘Rebuilding Faith’ in the three blocks of Uttarkashi district- Dunda, Chinayalisaur and Bhatwari focusing on psychosocial care and support ‘Umaang programme’, strengthening school education and improving quality of teaching/learning, awareness and education on Disaster Risk Reduction, Climate Change and Sustainable Mountain in school and village community of Uttarkashi district. CEE Himalaya under RCE Srinagar are actively involved in capacity building of local communities by imparting traditional and innovative knowledge to empower them to take sustainable actions for themselves and their communities. Under this mandate, CEE Himalaya with the support from the JSW Foundation organized discussions, debates, slogan writing, drawing and painting competitions, plantation and pledge writing involving 70 people from Kuroli village community. Group discussions on how the damage is caused by uncontrolled deforestation for fuel wood and other uses are leading to the shrinking of wetlands, littering and dumping of waste nearby or in the wetland results in its degradation were held. How can these wetlands be used to generate income for the community was one of the questions put forth with suggested strategies such as herbal and medicinal plants cultivation, eco-tourism and other. Youth and children expressed their thoughts on wetlands, environmental conservation, and the theme on ‘Wetlands for Our Future: Sustainable Livelihoods’ through paintings, slogans and speeches. A good debate was held among villagers on role of wetlands in mitigating or intensifying disaster risks. Saplings of native species like Baans (Bamboo), Deodar (Cedrus deodara), and Oak were planted by the principal and students of Govt. Primary School, Kuroli. At the end of the event, the community took pledges, by writing on a white cloth, for conserving the wetlands in their region as well as motivating other people to do the same.

For further details, contact: HIMANI Project Officer CEE Himalaya Mail Id: - himani.joshi@ceeindia.org