Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A LAKE as a WETLAND or a WATER BODY : Re-imagining a lake as GREEN

Our preferred imagination of an urban lake is mostly blue water with a well maintained walking track all along, some trees on the periphery and some birds on them too. That imagination is of course broken when the lake stinks, froths, has plastic strewn around. That imagination is ALSO broken when we see overgrown typha reeds in the lake, floating hyacinth and alligator weed. When the lake turns from BLUE to GREEN that imagination is broken. And then we want to rejuvenate the lake and turn it BLUE again
If we were to step back and think why is it that we really want the BLUE or for that matter the WATER for, we realise a couple of things. These lakes were man made, created for purposes of flood control, irrigation, fishing, for live stock, for domestic purposes. However in most urban lakes, (especially the smaller ones) even if the water was of good quality
- we are not allowed to swim or bathe
- we are not allowed to fish unless we are a fishing contractor (with permissions from the fisheries department)
- we are not allowed to row a boat
- we are not allowed to immerse idols or other offerings. Immersions are to be made in a Kalyani that is specifically made for the purpose
The above aside (things that we cannot do), what purposes does the lake continue to serve us
- it still serves very well as a flood control mechanism when the streams do connect to the lake (and the flows are not obstructed)
- it allows for groundwater recharge and places nearer the lake do observe an increase in ground water tables
- helps regulate temperature. The area around a lake is always much cooler
- is a pleasant place to walk around/socialise
- provides spaces for birds, reptiles and other living beings to breed and nest
- is a place where societies/governments let in their treated/untreated waste water
- is a place where grass as fodder mostly grows abundantly and allows for cattle grazers to collect cattle feed
The above purposes could largely be met even if all or more of the lake were more of a GREEN wetland not a BLUE water body. Birds and reptiles prefer the WETLANDS for nesting and stay in the WETLANDS for large parts of the day. There are fishes in the WETLANDS too. Infact WETLANDS provide for a lot more bio diversity. The green in the WETLANDS possibly increases the oxygen levels in the surrounding areas too. The nutrient in the waste water is drawn out by the WETLAND plants and hence the water leaving the WETLAND is a lot cleaner
Given that we cant swim, bathe, fish, wash in the lake. Given that a GREEN WETLAND serves almost all and more of the purposes that a BLUE WATER BODY can, except for changes in aesthetics and some changes in volume. Given that we are increasingly looking at lakes as being receptacles for treated/untreated waste water and that we are also struggling to maintain our STPs in the long term, what if we imagined more of our lakes as WETLANDS and not WATER BODIES. Would that be ok ? The WETLANDS would serve almost all the functions that the current water body does and additionally allow for better water treatment too. Currently most lakes have 1/8 to 1/4 of the total area as a WETLAND - either by design and maintenance or by the propensity of the WETLAND to take over. It does seem a lot more practical and long term and realistic to imagine our lakes as GREEN WETLANDS rather than BLUE WATER bodies. This could mean that more of the lake area could turn green or perhaps some lakes could turn completely into WETLANDS too. The WETLAND would still need maintenance and management (and we would need to learn how to go about with it) and acceptance.
Would we be ok imagining our lakes as WETLANDS. More GREEN and less BLUE ?
All WETLAND and WATER BODY pictures from Lower Ambalipura Lake, Off Sarjapura Road. Roughly 20% WETLAND and 80% WATER BODY, by area





 

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