Surajpur Wetland is an excellent example of an urban wetland in the Yamuna River basin. It forms a suitable breeding ground for waterfowl such as Spot-billed Duck, Lesser-whistling Duck, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Comb Duck and wintering waterfowl such as Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Pochard, Bar-headed Goose, Greylag Goose, Common Teal, Northern Shoveler and Gadwall. Not only 180 species of birds, but also 13 species of fishes, 56 invertebrates, 8 species of reptiles, and 6 species of mammals have been recorded.
Intach Noida and Greater Noida chapter organised a Nature walk and a Tree talk, in association with the Forest Department in Surajpur Wetland on December 10, 2022. Several nature enthusiasts and tree lovers participated to know more about the wetland.
The walk was conducted by Vikrant Tongad, a self-trained environmental conversationalist from Noida, who has been working towards the conservation of the Surajpur wetland. His organisation's Social action for the forest environment (SAFE) creates awareness towards mitigating pollution and conserving the environment.
CitySpidey met Vikrant inside the Surajpur Wetland and had an exclusive chat regarding the wetland. Following are excerpts from our conversation-
1 What was the mission of the Nature and Tree talk?
The main mission was to teach common people about the importance of nature and to familiarise them with the Surajpur wetland. There is a very good habitat forest of 308 hectares, out of which 60 hectares is a water body. This is a very good forest surrounding the sanctuary. It is the best suitable land for nature walks as the biodiversity here is strong. In the nature walk, we discussed the trees, plants, shrubs, and the medicinal value of the plants which naturally grow here.
2 What is a wetland?
Apart from the Surajpur wetland, there are several wetlands in UP and lakhs in India. As the name suggests, Surajpur wetland is a lake. Many birds come and pay a visit and often make it their home. It proves to be a good habitat for migratory birds including from Siberia. Wetlands are known for freshwater which is important for aquatic life where many animals and plants survive. They work in flood management, they work as a sponge in monsoon when it rains heavily. Wetlands control the water when there is a threat of flood and this water is used when there are no rains. They also help in maintaining the ground level.
3 What were some of the reasons that made you work towards protecting this wetland?
This is the only wetland of Greater Noida West, and already there is a lot of water depletion, so there is a need to protect these wetlands. We started our mission in 2010 when we saw that this wetland was getting encroached on for commercial activities, greenery was being disturbed, trees were getting dry, ornamental trees were increasing, and concretisation was on. Since then, we raised concerns with National Green Tribunal and Greater Noida Authority to preserve this wetland
One of the other major problems which Surajpur wetland is going through is the uncontrolled growth of Jalkumbhi also called Water Hyacinth. It needs to be removed from the water from time to time, only then the migratory bird come to wetlands. With the increase in Urbanisation, a lot of things have affected the maintenance of this wetland. Earlier, the water level was very good, but with unsustainable constructions, the catchment area has been disturbed. Due to this, the wetland is now dependent on the drain. That drain brings the water here, and that water is contaminated and polluted.
Contaminated water will disturb aquatic life, so we are doing efforts to stop this bad quality water. For holistic development, we are trying to connect this wetland with those wetlands which were part of this wetland about 10 years back.
4 What efforts have you taken to safeguard this wetland?
We have been working towards the protection of Surajpur wetlands for the past several years. We stepped in to stop the transfer of drainage water and the use of generators in the region as that was not healthy. Later, with the help of the Irrigation department, the water problem was solved. However, we are trying to revive the catchment area just like it was before. A lot of work is still left to make the area sustainable. A petition was filed by us in National Green Tribunal for protecting the trees which lie inside the proposed eco-park area. Moreover, after our petition, NGT passed an order which restricts any construction in the wetland which has benefited the wetland significantly.
5 What harm can concretisation bring to the wetland?
It is best to leave natural spaces the way they are. The most that can be done is creating passages for people to come in and go out, making parking for the visitors, putting the chairs for the elderly, fencing for protection etc. But we cannot develop it like a picnic spot by putting the ornamental grass as neither is it native nor of any use. The same applies to ornamental plants. There are already many picnic spots in Noida, we want natural habitats to be developed naturally. Some time back, thousands of tiles were being fixed on the pathway which was discarded later. Instead, local species such as Neem, Papri, Jamun, Mulberry, Mango, Arjun tree etc needs to be planted more.