Can Delhi’s Wetlands Rejuvenate Its Ground Water?
Ecosystems that are flooded by water (either permanently or seasonally) are called wetlands. Oxygen-free processes prevail here, giving birth to aquatic plants adapted to the hydraulic cycle.
Wetlands support immense biodiversity and birds come from hundreds of kilometres to visit wetlands. Wetlands store and replenish ground water and hence are extremely important for urban spaces like Delhi.
Delhi and NCR have several major wetlands, but these are under serious threat. Wetlands found in Najafgarh, Wazirabad, Dhanauri and Basai have over the years helped with flood relief, prevention of siltation of reservoirs, water purification and enhancement of ground water recharge. Wetlands work as natural biofilters and purify water by removing and or degrading a range of pollutants from waters.
Wetlands can also be artificially designed to treat wastewater. Such artificial wetlands are called constructed wetlands or treatment wetlands. The constructed wetlands remove and biodegrade many pollutants found in wastewater. For example, organic matter, organic pollutants, suspended solids, nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous), all types of pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa and helminths) and emergent pollutants like detergents, antibiotics and pharmaceuticals are removed and or biodegraded by constructed wetlands.
These bodies in Delhi are under extreme threat from urbanization and the associated land use changes that have been identified as primary drivers behind wetland loss and degradation. Deforestation, land conversion and developmental activities have resulted in reduced flow, habitat loss and loss of biodiversity along the Yamuna river and its floodplains. Nestled within these floodplains is Dhanauri wetlands in Greater Noida. It is a Sarus crane hotspot and attracts a wide range of bird enthusiasts and ecologists for the mesmerising experience it offers. Dhanauri too, is critically under threat.
It is thus clear that wetlands act as extremely important water bodies and natural phenomena that protect, rejuvenate and purify everything around them. Delhi is currently facing a water crisis and the river Yamuna is degrading to irreversible levels everyday. We must protect these wetlands from all harm, and make use of them to recharge ground water and treat waste water naturally.
By Aditi Agarwal. The article has been written as part of the Jal Se Jalshay, a community and youth-led campaign by Haiyya to address water crises in Delhi. Following the campaign on Twitter @JalSeJalashay.