Urbanization | VOL. 16, ISSUE 96, May-June 2016

Vanishing Urban Wetlands

 Wetlands comprise around 6.4 per cent of the earth’s surface and are found across different climatic zones. Many major urban centres are located near water based ecosystems—coastal, riverine or riparian. Hence wetlands are most critically threatened by the rapid expansion of cities. Cities are not self-sustaining; they are systems dependent on the natural environment. Vegetated tracts, urban wetlands, water bodies and riverine systems are crucial for the city. The productive capacities of wetlands cannot be determined by price or market value; yet, they facilitate by their existence itself. Unfortunately, this trade-off has often been neglected in urban planning. Consequently, the destruction and pervasive neglect of urban wetlands has taken a severe toll on our very existence. The major functions and significance of urban wetlands are often unrealised. Michael Williams (1991) categorically listed the functions of wetlands.  Some are of particular significance to urban areas: Natural flood mitigation: Wetlands temporarily absorb or contain run-off water and thereby protect downstream areas from being inundated. Instead of building expensive dams, or dredging, retention of urban wetlands may be the most cost-effective flood management. Recharging of aquifers: An aquifer is a zone surrounded by impervious rock layers and effectively holds ground water much better than structures overlaid and underlain by porous rock strata. Water infiltrates from the surface and recharges the water table, with the aquifers retaining it and...

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