Thursday, 28 September 2017

Save The Basai Wetlands in Gurgaon





The Basai wetlands in Gurgaon are the last wetlands that Gurgaon has today. There was a time when this Millenium City in the National Capital Region once had a large number of freshwater bodies, streams, and lakes. Today none of them exist. No wonder, the groundwater table of Gurgaon has started to sink at an alarming rate! A day will come when Gurgaon will have to import water from neighboring states thanks to the unsustainable extraction of groundwater for construction purposes and the filling up of freshwater bodies. 
Gurgaon once was - a peaceful hamlet blessed with green fields, forests, lakes, and streams, now turned into a wasteland devoid of sparrows and vultures that once acted as nature's own scavengers. I have seen Gurgaon change into a concrete jungle fed by the greed of real estate sharks who have transformed this once upon a time Sylvan district into a concrete jungle of tangled pillars and dust bowls. In the context of this, I would like to draw the attention of the readers towards the last remaining wetlands of Gurgaon known as the Basai Wetlands. Found close to the Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary, the Basai Wetlands are low-lying areas that are filled with rainwater. These wetlands are disappearing at an alarming rate. They are being filled up so that buildings can come up. Freshwater bodies that could be seen last year close to the Sultanpur bird sanctuary don't exist anymore. 
It is an unfortunate fact that people who matter, policymakers, the administration, and think tanks need to wake up to the alarming rate at which wetlands in Gurgaon have disappeared. Greed and apathy, lack of willpower and sheer civic laziness have turned this town into a veritable wasteland, a dustbowl and a magnet for advancing sand dunes of an advancing desert.


Freshwater bodies, wetlands, and marshes are an important part of the ecosystem. When wetlands marshes and freshwater bodies are destroyed, it can only spell disaster! The ecosystem is a finely balanced system that sustains life in all its forms. When any component in the ecosystem, such as grasslands, forests, and freshwater bodies are dislodged, it has a cascade effect on other biological systems. No wonder, therefore, nature hits back with a revenge. Take for example how all those areas that were once part of freshwater bodies and streams become inundated even in light rain!
Freshwater bodies like the Basai wetlands help recharge the groundwater levels. They act as catchment areas and they help in storing rainwater. Freshwater bodies also support life in the form of fish, birds and aquatic life. Migratory birds from far away lands turn up at these sites. It is not surprising, therefore, to see a large number of migratory waterbirds turning up at spots that were once ponds and lakes just because they have a centuries-old memory of flight paths to breeding and nesting grounds that they have been visiting for ages!


The Basai wetlands are home to a large number of migratory birds, both from the country and from places as far away as Siberia. These birds include painted storks, cormorants, spot bill ducks herons and many others. When the Basai wetlands are filled up and buildings come upon them, we will have taken away what was once home to them!


Gurgaon will abdicate its tag of Millenium city of Haryana if it does not protect its wetlands, forests and even its unique portion of the Aravali mountains. Gurugram, unfortunately, has become a metaphor and a symbol of what can go wrong as a result of greed official apathy and unplanned development. When officialdom turns a blind eye towards the rampant destruction of freshwater areas in the town.  The attraction of kickbacks and the assured promise of returns on the sale of land that was home to various birds and other animals.
The losers, unfortunately, in this race for development are the countless migratory birds that have continued to visit the Basai Wetlands for the purpose of breeding and propagation of their species. Alas!! birds have no voice in a world  driven by commercial consideration! Unfortunately, migratory birds and ethnic species that thrive in the Basai wetlands have no voice and so civic agencies turn a blind eye towards them. I am surprised to see Kingfisher birds perched on trees even when their natural habitats exist no longer! We, as human beings have no right of depriving nature of its rightful ownership of the land on which we build our homes and offices. We are merely stewards with a responsibility of protecting our ecosystems. We need to develop a holistic approach towards development in the region, and understand that each act of ours has a compounding impact on a larger scale on the ecosystem within which we too live!


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