The transformation of water bodies into urban areas bears significant environmental consequences. Ecological balance is disrupted, leading to habitat loss and biodiversity decline. Increased runoff and pollution follow, impacting water quality. Examples include wetland drainage causing bird habitat loss and urbanization contributing to river pollution, underscoring the critical need for sustainable development.
UPSC Mains General Studies Paper – 1 Mains 2021
- Start with a brief intro explaining the process of land reclamation with the context (its need).
- Explain the environmental implications of the water bodies into urban land use.
- Conclude accordingly.
- Land reclamation involves the process of either draining water from marshy or submerged regions or elevating the land’s surface. This practice serves as a viable solution for satisfying the growing need for land, enabling the creation of space for various purposes such as construction, agriculture, and other human activities.
The environmental implications of the water bodies into urban land use: Reclamation of water bodies into urban land use has many environmental consequences such as:
- Habitat Loss: Water bodies harbour diverse plant and animal species, many of which rely on these ecosystems for their survival. Converting them into urban areas results in habitat destruction and displacement of wildlife, leading to a loss of biodiversity.
- Ecosystem Disruption: Water bodies play a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance. They provide breeding grounds for aquatic species, act as nurseries for juvenile organisms, and contribute to nutrient cycling. Urban development disrupts these functions, causing disruptions in food chains and overall ecosystem health.
- Hydrological Changes: Water bodies contribute to regulating water flow, preventing floods, and replenishing groundwater. When converted to urban land, the natural hydrological patterns are altered. Reduced water infiltration, increased surface runoff, and decreased water retention capacity can lead to flooding, erosion, and changes in the local water cycle.
- Water Quality Impacts: Water bodies act as natural filters, removing pollutants and sediments from the water. Urban land use can introduce contaminants such as chemicals, heavy metals, and fertilisers, which can degrade water quality and harm aquatic life. Increased impervious surfaces also contribute to stormwater runoff, carrying pollutants into water bodies.
- Climate Change Vulnerability: Water bodies have a moderating effect on local climate by regulating temperature and humidity. Converting them into urban areas can exacerbate the urban heat island effect, leading to higher temperatures and reduced air quality. This can have adverse effects on human health and increase energy consumption for cooling.
- Loss of Biodiversity: Land reclamation projects targeting wetlands have increased the Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), negatively impacting both aquatic and aerial fauna. A prime example of this can be seen in Hussain Sagar Lake, where the extinction of species is observed due to elevated BOD levels.
- Pollution: Water bodies possess natural filtration capabilities, purifying contaminants. However, rapid urbanisation without corresponding waste disposal infrastructure has resulted in the transformation of water bodies into landfills. Bengal and Guwahati’s Deepro beel serve as examples where municipal corporations have utilised these areas for dumping solid waste.
- Altered Drainage Systems: Creeks in urban areas have become narrower and shallower due to silt accumulation and the expansion of built-up areas. This has caused blockages in the natural drainage systems of cities, as witnessed during the significant flood event in Mumbai on July 26, 2005.
- Hence, Water bodies play a vital role in supporting diverse ecosystems and providing a plethora of valuable resources and ecosystem services. So to minimise the environmental implications, it is crucial to adopt sustainable land-use practices, implement proper planning and design strategies, and prioritise the preservation and restoration of water bodies within urban areas.
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