Srinagar: Brari Nambal, an urban wetland of Shehr-e-Khaas is literally in its death throes. It has lost 23 percent of its area in the last 37 years, according to the latest study.
Entitled, “Linking land system changes (1980–2017) with the trophic status of an urban wetland: Implications for wetland management,” the study was conducted at the University of Kashmir.
Published in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment journal, the 2021 study was aimed to assess land use-land cover changes around the Brari Nambal wetland ecosystem using satellite and water quality data.
The key findings indicated a loss of “23 percent” in the wetland area from 1980 to 2017. While in the vicinity, a significant increase in built-up (77 percent) and roads (90 percent) was observed.
During the same time, the open spaces were reduced by 45 percent. “The built-up areas (A built-up area is an area such as a town or city which has a lot of buildings in it) have increased by 500 percent within the wetland. In 1980, built areas constituted 0.7 hectares within the wetland whereas they have shot up to 4.3 hectares at present,” Rashid said.
Over the last three decades, urban wetlands in Kashmir have experienced tremendous losses of area, degradation of ecological functions, and continue to face threats of various magnitudes due to land cover changes, urbanization, population pressures, and climate change.
“In this study, we evaluated the land system changes that have happened within the Brari Nambal wetland and its vicinity. The remote sensing results revealed that the wetland has lost 23 percent out of the total 43 hectares,” Senior Assistant Professor, Coordinator, Department of Geoinformatics and co-author of the study, Dr. Irfan Rashid said.
Rashid pointed out that the wetland receives sewage and wastes from the surrounding catchment areas along with a huge load of untreated sewage from the sewage treatment plants (STPs), on the southern bank, thereby changing it into a cesspool.
The researcher said the wetland earlier played a significant role in maintaining many natural cycles and supported a wide range of biodiversity. “It served as a natural sponge against flooding and drought. However, with time, the hydrology has been affected through the loss of flushing capacity and even the ecology of the wetland,” he said.
An environmental expert said the administration has taken cosmetic measures in the conservation of the wetland. “Only de-weeding will not help. The efficiency of the sewage treatment plants around the wetland needs to be improved. Also, one has to check if a particular drain gets empty in the wetland, how much is the influx of nutrient load in the drain? If these factors are not considered, the conservation measures will fall flat,” he said.
He said the siltation of wetland is another important concern that should be looked into by the policy-makers so as to restore their original water holding capacities.
“This is important for reducing the vulnerability of the population in Srinagar to floods. The effects of mismanagement of city wetlands will become visible only in a few decades and the wetland encroachers will bear consequences similar to what Srinagarites experienced during the 2014 megaflood,” the expert said.