Home Key Lecture
Ramachandra T.V.Energy & Wetlands Research Group, Centre for Ecological Sciences
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560 012
Telephone: 91-080-3600985 / 394 2506 (extn 215/232)
Telefax: 91-080- 3601428/3600085/ 3600683 [CES TVR] Email: email@example.com
Aquatic ecosystems have been subjected to various levels of stresses in India, due to unplanned developmental activities in the last century leading to serious environmental degradation. Anthropogenic activities involving changes in land use ultimately affects the receiving water in that drainage. Activities include agriculture –inorganic fertliser, pesticides and herbicides applied to crops, silt washed away because of vegetation removal, or even atmospheric deposition, or disposal of solid and liquid wastes. Thus, aquatic ecosystems are exposed to all local disturbances regardless of where they occur. In addition, waterways have been used for numerous activities other than providing habitat to aquatic organisms. They have been altered for transportation, diverted for agricultural and municipal needs, dammed for energy, used as an industrial coolant, and straightened for convenience. These uses, misuses and exploitation have taken their toll as evidenced by declines in fisheries, floods, droughts, loss of biodiversity and communities trying to deal with finite water supplies. The traits that make aquatic ecosystems particularly vulnerable also make them useful for monitoring environmental quality. Water serves to integrate these impacts by distributing them among the elements within these ecosystems. Although dilution is occurring, subtle changes can be detected in habitats or organisms over a much larger area that may be the result of a single point source. A clean ecosystem with a healthy biological community will be indicative of the condition of the terrestrial habitat in the watershed. Despite few attempts, much needs to be done to effectively manage and conserve aquatic resources. As is evident from the scientific literatures little is known of the national trends in populations, diversity, or biomass of diatoms, algae, and protozoa even though they provide basic functions of photosynthesis, production, and decomposition critical to the normal functioning of aquatic ecosystems. This necessitates detailed scientific investigations and without increased monitoring, some very basic attributes of aquatic systems may be unknowingly lost or severely degraded. Subtle changes such as losses of island habitat and constant water depth or level may lead to drastic declines in productivity or diversity. The loss of some of these vital components of ecosystems may be impossible to restore. This paper highlights the conservation, restoration and management aspects of aquatic ecosystem.
ecosystems contribute to a large proportion of the planet's biotic productivity
as about 30 % of the world's primary productivity comes from plants living in
the ocean. These ecosystems also include wetlands located at lake shores, river
banks, the ocean shoreline, and any habitat where the soil or vegetation is
submerged for some duration. When compared to terrestrial communities, aquatic
communities are limited abiotically in several different ways (http://www.usgs.gov).
Organisms in aquatic systems survive partial to total submergence.
Water submergence has an effect on the availability of atmospheric oxygen, which
is required for respiration, and solar radiation, which is needed in
Some organisms in aquatic systems have to deal with dissolved
salts in their immediate environment. This condition has caused these forms of
life to develop physiological adaptations to deal with this problem.
Aquatic ecosystems are nutritionally limited by phosphorus and
iron, rather than nitrogen and
These are generally cooler than terrestrial systems which limits
earth, two-thirds of which is covered by water, looks like a blue planet-the
planet of water-from space (Clarke, 1994). The world's lakes and rivers are
probably the planet's most important freshwater resources. But the amount of
fresh water covers only 2.53% of the earth's water. On the earth's surface,
fresh water is the habitat of a large number of species. These aquatic organisms
and the ecosystem in which they live represent a substantial sector of the
earth's biological diversity. The association of man and aquatic ecosystem is
ancient. It is not surprising that the first sign of civilization is traced to
wetland areas. The flood plains of the Indus, the Nile delta, and the Fertile
Crescent of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers provided man with all his basic
necessities. Water may be required for various purposes like drinking and
personal hygiene, fisheries, agriculture, navigation, industrial production,
hydropower generation, and recreational activities. The wide variety of
wetlands, like marshes, swamps, bogs, peat land, open water bodies like lakes
and rivers, mangroves, tidal marshes, and so forth, can be profitably used by
humans for various needs and for environmental amelioration. Ever-increasing
population and the consequent urbanization and industrialization have mounted
serious environmental pressures on these ecosystems and have affected them to
such an extent that their benefits have declined significantly.
is interesting to know that there are nearly 14 x 108 cubic km of
water on the planet, of which more than 97.5% is in the oceans, which covers 71%
of the earth's surface. Wetlands are estimated to occupy nearly 6.4% of the
earth's surface. Of those wetlands, nearly 30% is made up of bogs, 26% fens, 20%
swamps, and 15% flood plains. Of the earth's fresh water, 69.6% is locked up in
the continental ice, 30.1% in underground aquifers, and 0.26% in rivers and
lakes. In particular, lakes are found to occupy less than 0.007% of world's
fresh water (Clarke, 1994). This amount of water is found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and those
underground sources that are shallow enough to be tapped at an affordable cost.
Only this amount is regularly renewed by rain and snowfall, and is therefore
available on a sustainable basis.
is blessed with numerous rivers and streams. By virtue of its geography, varied
terrain, and climate, it supports a rich diversity of inland and coastal wetland
habitats. Major river systems in the north are Ganga, Yamuna, and Brahmaputra
(perennial rivers from the Himalayas) and in the south, Krishna, Godavari, and
Cauvery (not perennial, as they are mainly rain-fed). The central part of India
has the Narmada and the Tapti. The Indo-Gangetic floodplain is the largest
wetland regime of India. Most of the natural wetlands of India are connected
with the river systems. The lofty Himalayan mountain ranges in northern India
accommodate several well-known lakes, especially the palaearctic lakes of Ladakh
and the Vale of Kashmir, which are sources of major rivers. In the northeastern
and eastern parts of the country are located the massive floodplains of Ganga
and Brahmaputra along with the productive system of swamps, marshes, and oxbow
lakes. Apart from this, there exist a number of man-made wetlands for various
multipurpose projects. Examples are Harike Barrage at the confluence of the Beas
and the Sutlej in Punjab, Bhakra Nagal Dam in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, and
the Cosi Barrage in Bihar-Nepal Border. India's climate ranges from the cold,
arid Ladakh to the warm, arid Rajasthan, and India has over 7,500 km of
coastline, major river systems, and mountains. Terrestrial ecosystems range from
wet evergreen to deciduous forests in the Western ghats and north-east; scrub /
plains in deccan plateau and gangetic plains amidst the mountain ranges.
are 67,429 wetlands in India, covering about 4.1 million hectares. Out of these,
2,175 wetlands are natural, covering about 1.5 million hectares, and 65,254
wetlands are man-made, occupying about 2.6 million hectares.
to Forest Survey of India, mangroves cover an additional 6,740 sq km. Their
major concentrations are Sunderbans, Andaman, and Nicobar Islands, which hold
80% of the country's mangroves. The rest are in Orissa, Andhra Pradesh,
Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Goa.
have been drained and transformed due to anthropogenic activities, like
unplanned urban and agricultural development, industries, road construction,
impoundments, resource extraction, and dredge disposal, causing substantial
economic and ecological losses in the long term. They occupy about 58.2 million
hectares, of which 40.9 million hectares are under paddy cultivation. About 3.6
million hectares are suitable for fish culture. Approximately 2.9 million
hectares are under capture fisheries (brackish and freshwater). Mangroves,
estuaries, and backwaters occupy 0.4, 3.9, and 3.5 million hectares
respectively. Man-made impoundments constitute 3 million hectares. Nearly 28,000
km are under rivers, including main tributaries and canals. Canal and irrigation
channels constitute another 113,000 km (Rajinikanth, R. and Ramachandra, T.V.
accurate results on wetland loss in India are not available, the Wildlife
Institute of India's survey reveals that 70-80% of individual fresh water
marshes and lakes in the Gangetic flood plains have been lost in the last five
decades. Indian mangrove areas have decreased by half from 700,000 ha in 1987 to
453,000 ha in 1995.
Karnataka Scenario of Aquatic Ecosystems
state is situated between 11° 31' and 18° 45' N latitude and 74° 12' and 78°
40' E longitude, and endowed with numerous rivers, lakes, and streams, and has a
coastline of about 320 km. Spatial extent of the state is 1,92,204 sq km (5.35%
of the country's total geographical area) with a population of 52 million. Mean
annual rainfall varies from 3,932 (Dakshina Kannada) to 140 mm (Bijapur). The
wetlands of Karnataka are classified into inland and coastal categories, both
natural and man-made. Natural inland wetlands include lakes, ox-bow lakes, and
marshes/swamps; man-made inland wetlands include reservoirs and tanks. Natural
coastal wetlands include estuaries, creeks, mudflats, mangroves, and marshes;
while man-made coastal wetlands includes salt pans. Wetlands cover about 2.72
million hectares, of which inland wetlands cover 2.54 million hectares, and
coastal wetlands 0.18 million hectares. The area of 682 wetlands, scattered
throughout the state of Karnataka, is about 2,718 sq km, of which seven are
natural inland wetlands (581.25 ha), 615 are man-made inland wetlands
(253,433.75 ha), 56 are natural coastal wetlands (16,643.75 ha) and four are
man-made coastal wetlands (1,181.75 ha). Inland wetlands cover 93.43% (254,015
ha) of the total wetland area while coastal wetlands cover only 6.57 % (17,825.5
ha). Tanks (561) account for 79,088 ha; followed by reservoirs (53), which cover
about 174,290 ha; lakes, which occupy about 438 ha; and mangroves, which account
for 550 ha. Karnataka includes the basins of Krishna (58.9%), Cauvery (18.8%),
Godavari (2.31%), North Pennar (3.62 %), South Pennar (1.96%), Palar (1.55%),
and west flowing rivers (12.8%) with drainage of 191,770 sq km. (Rege, et al.,
total water spread area during pre-monsoon is about 204,054 ha, and 246,643 ha
in post-monsoon. Out of the total wetlands in the state, 71 have shown water
spread less than 56.25 ha (Rege, et. al, 1996). Water-spread area of lakes/ponds
in post-monsoon is about 437.50 ha, and 368.75 ha in pre-monsoon. Reservoirs
have shown considerable variations from post-monsoon (167,268 ha) to pre-monsoon
(138,684.25 ha). Tanks also vary from 46,975.25 ha (post-monsoon) to 60,912.25
ha (pre-monsoon). Coastal wetlands, under constant influence from the sea, have
no variation in terms of water spread area in all seasons. Most of the tanks dry
up during pre-monsoon.
Ancient human societies have traditionally recognised water resources in practical as well as symbolic ways. Failure by modern societies to deal with water as a finite resource is leading to unnecessary destruction of rivers, lakes and marshes that provide us with water. This failure in turn is threatening all options for the survival and security of plants, animals, humans, etc. There is an urgent need for
Restoring and conserving the actual source of water - the water cycle and the natural ecosystems that support it - is the basis for sustainable water management;
Environmental degradation is preventing us from reaching goals of good public health, food security, and better livelihoods world-wide;
Improving the human quality of life can be achieved in ways that also maintain and enhance environmental quality;
Reducing greenhouse gases to avoid the dangerous effects of climate change is an integral part of protecting freshwater resources and ecosystems.
Aquatic Ecosystems: Categories
ecosystems could be categorised as
Open Sea -occupies about 90 % of the total surface area of the ocean, and
contains about 10 % of all marine plant and animal species.
Coastal Zone - is the area of the ocean where water depth is less than
200 meters. Within the coastal zone are several unique habitats,
Estuaries - the saline waters of the ocean meet with fresh water
from streams and rivers and these habitats are very productive due to
accumulation of nutrients from fresh water runoff.
Tidal marshes - common in temperate areas, and are dominated by
sedges and grasses.
Mangroves - common in
tropical areas and have tree species.
Coral reefs - supported by warm shallow tropical water
and compare with tropical forests in density of individuals, species
diversity, and types of life-forms. Coral are tiny organisms that build a
calcium carbonate chamber for a home. Over long periods of time, the continued
building of these homes creates a large accumulation of coral skeletons (http://www.geog.ouc.bc.ca).
Lakes and Reservoirs: Lakes are natural features formed from the
accumulation of fresh water in depressions. Sources for the water include
precipitation, runoff, stream flow, and groundwater flows while reservoirs are
bodies of fresh water that are artificially created by humans. Lakes are
categorised according to their nutrient status as:
Eutropic: rich in nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorous. These
have usually large populations of plankton and zooplankton, and have less
diverse populations of fish, and are often depleted of dissolved oxygen during
periods of warm temperatures. Humans have altered the nutrient status of many
lakes through the addition of nitrates, urea, and phosphates. This process
results in physical, chemical and biological changes in the system.
are nutrient poor and are often crystal clear and have low biotic productivity.
Rivers and Streams: These are created by the accumulation of runoff and
groundwater into low lying channels. These constitute important components of
the hydrologic system move water from areas where precipitation exceeds
evapotranspiration to lakes and oceans.
Fresh Water Wetlands: These are terrestrial habitats that are partially
submerged by fresh water and include habitats like marshes, swamps, ponds, etc.
These habitats support many different species of fish, birds, and animals.
Plants and animals present in wetlands are more than terrestrial habitats, thus
making them highly productive environments. Wetlands function as ecotones,
transitions between different habitats, and have characteristics of both aquatic
and terrestrial ecosystems.
have often been described as the kidneys of the landscape because of the role
they play in water and chemical cycles. Wetlands filter out sediment and
pollution from the surrounding environment so that the water they discharge to
rivers and lakes is cleaner. In this manner, wetlands act as both a sink and
source, storing and passing on vital resources to their local environment.
pond, wetlands, lake or estuary is an ultimate destination of all water running
downhill through an area of land, which is referred as watershed. A watershed is
a catchment basin that is bound by topographic features, such as ridge tops and
perform primary functions of the ecosystem(http://www.gdrc.org). It plays
a critical role in the natural functioning of the ecosystem (Ahalya N.
and Ramachandra T.V., 2002)
watersheds integrate the surface water run-off of an entire drainage basin.
It captures water from the atmosphere. Ideally, all moisture received from the
atmosphere, whether in liquid or solid form, has the maximum opportunity to
enter the ground where it falls. The water infiltrates the soil and percolates
downward. Several factors affect the infiltration rate, including soil type,
topography, climate, and vegetative cover. Percolation is also aided by the
activity of burrowing animals, insects, and earthworms.
It stores rainwater once it filters through the soil. Once the
watershed's soils are saturated, water will either percolate deeper, or runoff
the surface. This can result in freshwater aquifers and springs. The type and
amount of vegetation, and the plant community structure, can greatly influence
the storage capacity in any one watershed. The root mass associated with healthy
vegetative cover keeps soil more permeable and allows the moisture to percolate
deep into the soil for storage. Vegetation in the riparian zone affects both the
quantity and quality of water moving through the soil.
Finally, water moves through the soil to seeps and springs, and is
ultimately released into streams, rivers, and the ocean. Slow release rates are
preferable to rapid release rates, which result in short and severe peaks
instream flow. Storm events which generate large amounts of run-off can lead to
flooding, soil erosion and siltation of streams.
Ultimately, the moisture will return to the atmosphere by way of
evaporation. The hydrologic cycle (the capture, storage, release, and eventual
evaporation of water) forms the basis of watershed function. Economically,
they play a critical role as sources of water, food, hydropower, recreational
amenities, and transportation routes.
Ecologically, watersheds constitute a critical link between land
and sea; they provide habitat -- within wetlands, rivers, and lakes - for 40
percent of the world's fish species, some of which migrate between marine and
Watersheds also provide habitat within the terrestrial ecosystems
such as forests and grasslands - for most terrestrial plant and animal species;
and they provide a host of other ecosystem services -- from water purification
and retention to flood control to nutrient recycling and restoration of soil
fertility -- vital to human civilizations.
watershed should be managed as a single unit. Each small piece of the landscape
has an important role in the overall health of the watershed. Paying attention
primarily to the riparian zone, an area critical to a watershed's release
function, will not make up for lack of attention to the watershed's uplands.
They play an equally important role in the watershed, the capture and storage of
moisture. It is seamless management of the entire watershed, and an
understanding of the hydrologic process, that ensures watershed health.
river system - from its headwaters to its mouth - is an integrated system and
must be treated as such. The focus of water resource management is on wise and
efficient use of water resources for such purposes as energy production,
navigation, flood control, irrigation, and drinking water (Rajinikanth, R. and
Ramachandra, T.V. 2001). It also places emphasis on improving ambient water
quality. Watershed approach can provide benefits to individual citizens, the
public sector, and the private sector. Individual citizens benefit when
watershed protection improves the environment and the livability of an area. The
watershed- wide participation of local citizens and organizations ensures that
those who are most familiar with a watershed, its problems and possible
solutions, play a major role in watershed stewardship. The private sector can
benefit because the burden of water resource protection is distributed more
equitably among pollution sources.
comprehensive approach to water resource management is needed to address the
myriad water quality problems that exist today from non-point and point sources
as well as from habitat degradation. Watershed based planning and resource
management is a strategy for more effective protection and restoration of
aquatic ecosystems and for protection of human health. The watershed approach
emphasizes all aspects of water quality, including chemical water quality (e.g.,
toxins and conventional pollutants), physical water quality (e.g., temperature,
flow, and circulation), habitat quality (e.g., stream channel morphology,
substrate composition, and riparian zone characteristics),and biological health
and biodiversity (e.g., species abundance, diversity, and range).
deal with non-point source pollution in an effective manner, a smaller and more
comprehensive scale of analysis and management is required. While point source
pollution control programs encourage identifying isolated polluters, non-point
source strategies recognize that small sources of pollution are widely dispersed
on the landscape and that the cumulative impacts of these pollutants on water
quality and habitat are great. A whole basin approach to protecting water
quality has proved most effective because it recognizes connected sub-basins (Ahalya
N. and Ramachandra T.V., 2002). This includes
Addressing issues of water quantity, protection of riparian areas,
control of aquatic non-native species, and protection of water quality.
Protecting the integrity of permanent and intermittent seeps, streams,
rivers, wetlands, riparian areas, etc.
Prioritising watersheds for protection and restoration and focus
available resources on highest priorities. Also, identify subwatersheds in which
to emphasize high water quality.
Not implementing any timber management in riparian areas without proof
that these activities actually increase coarse woody debris above natural levels
and the benefits outweigh the risks (sedimentation, oil and fuel runoff, etc).
Conducting a comprehensive all seasons water quality monitoring.
Eliminating commercial logging and unrestrained recreation in municipal
source pollution poses a serious threat to the health of watersheds. It results
from an accumulation of many small actions, and, although the individual impacts
may seem minor, the combined cumulative effects are significant. Control
measures and best management practices (BMPs) exist that can be utilized for
improved watershed health (Kiran and Ramachandra, T.V. 1999). The effectiveness
of the measures varies, depending on the specific pollutants addressed; the
watershed hydrology and characteristics, such as soils, slopes, type of
vegetative cover, and the nature and extent of area development; the waterbodies
in the watershed; and the sources of the pollution. Effectiveness also depends
on correct application of the control measure or practice. All types of land
uses have the potential to create non-point source pollution. Most of this
pollution results from changes and disturbances on the land. Some key sources
include residential areas, agricultural activities and forest practices.
problems stem from neighborhoods containing typical single- or multi-family
dwelling units. The problems arise from impervious surfaces that increase the
flow and volume of runoff causing stream channel erosion and flooding, and from
sedimentation from eroded lawns and gardens. Runoff can become contaminated by
household chemicals such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, paints,
solvents, and street/auto contaminates like oil. The most effective control
measures to address residential non-point source pollution include:
use of vegetated swales and wetlands for contaminate filtration before runoff enters receiving streams
sediment traps in stormwater systems
stormwater retention (e.g. detached downspouts)
landscape design for erosion control
recycling and proper disposal of household chemicals and wastes
proper maintenance of on site septic systems to reduce nutrient loading
combined sewer overflow management
vegetative planting and riparian enhancement of neighborhood streams
street sweeping to reduce suspended solid loading and decrease heavy metals and phosphorus contamination to receiving streams
planned development on steep slopes
limited amount of impervious surface
increased use of cluster developments
utilization of erosion control ordinances, especially on construction sites
Agricultural Activities include land uses such as orchards, nurseries, crop production, feedlots, and grazing. Most non-point source pollution from agricultural practices comes from erosion or chemical contamination of receiving waters. The most effective control measures to address agriculture-related non-point source pollution include:
riparian area protection and enhancement
revised management practices for livestock grazing and manure handling
Forestry practices generally lead to nonpoint source pollution problems of soil erosion and chemical contamination. The most effective control measures to address these problems include:
technical assistance to landowners
limits on road building and management
use of erosion control standards
chemical application controls (pesticides and herbicides)
riparian area protection and enhancement
accentuates the need for healthier watersheds. Healthier watersheds would slow
the runoff, increase percolation into underground aquifers, decrease siltation
of waterways, and lengthen the flow period for the rivers.
Watershed management has worked for over a century in Tinelvelli, where watershed recovered resulting in improved stream flow in less than five years when cattle grazing and fuelwood harvest were removed. The Palni Hills Conservation Council (PHCC) found that the watersheds of the Karavakurichi Reserve Forest improved in mere two years when fuelwood harvesters were given alternate employment in tree nurseries. Similar success stories are reported from dry arid districts like Ananthpur.
Aquatic Conservation Strategy
While rivers, lakes, and wetlands contain a mere 0.01% of the Earth’s water, these ecosystems support a disproportionately large part of global biodiversity. Freshwater fishes alone account for approximately one quarter of all living vertebrate species and It is estimated that there are 44,000 scientifically named species of freshwater biota. Tallies of endangered species indicate that freshwater biodiversity is generally more threatened than terrestrial biodiversity. For example, of those species considered in The World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) Red List for 2000, 20% of amphibians and 30% of fishes (mostly freshwater) were considered threatened. Freshwater biodiversity faces a broad range of threats. These include the direct impacts of dams, exotic species, overfishing, pollution, stream channelisation, water withdrawals, and diversions, as well as the indirect consequences of terrestrial activities such as logging, agriculture, industry, housing development, and mining (Prasad, et al. 2002). Conservation strategies need to be evolved and implemented to protect freshwater biodiversity. The Aquatic Conservation Strategy focus on conservation and maintaining the ecological health of watersheds and aquatic ecosystems so as to (Ramachandra, T.V. et al. 2002):
Maintain and conserve the distribution, diversity, and complexity of watershed and landscape-scale features to ensure protection of the aquatic systems to which species, populations, and communities are uniquely adapted.
Maintain and conserve spatial and temporal connectivity within and between watersheds. Lateral, longitudinal, and drainage network connections include flood plains, wetlands, up slope areas and headwater tributaries. These lineages must provide chemically and physically unobstructed routes to areas critical for fulfilling life history requirements of aquatic and riparian-dependent species.
Maintain and restore the physical integrity of the aquatic system, including shorelines, banks, and bottom configurations.
Maintain and preserve water quality necessary to support healthy riparian, aquatic, and wetland ecosystems. Water quality must remain in the range that maintains the biological, physical, and chemical integrity of the system and benefits survival, growth, reproduction, and migration of individuals composing aquatic and riparian communities.
Maintain the sediment regime under which an aquatic ecosystem evolved. Elements of the sediment regime include the timing, volume, rate, and character of sediment input, storage, and transport.
Maintain in stream flows sufficient to create and sustain riparian, aquatic, and wetland habitats and to retain patterns of sediment, nutrient, and wood routing (i.e., movement of woody debris through the aquatic system). The timing, magnitude, duration, and spatial distribution of peak, high, and low flows must be protected.
Maintain the timing, variability, and duration of flood plain inundation and water table elevation in meadows and wetlands.
Maintain and conserve the species composition and structural diversity of plant communities in riparian zones and wetlands to provide adequate summer and winter thermal regulation, nutrient filtering, appropriate rates of surface erosion, bank erosion, and channel migration, and to supply amounts and distributions of coarse woody debris sufficient to sustain physical complexity and stability.
Maintain and conserve habitat to support well-distributed populations of native plant, invertebrate, and vertebrate riparian-dependent species.
ecosystem conservation and management require collaborated research
involving natural, social, and inter-disciplinary study aimed at
understanding the various components, such as monitoring of water quality,
socio-economic dependency, biodiversity, and other activities, as an
indispensable tool for formulating long term conservation strategies (Kiran
& Ramachandra, 1999). This requires multidisciplinary-trained
professionals who can spread the understanding of ecosystem’s importance
at local schools, colleges, and research institutions by initiating
educational programs aimed at raising the levels of public awareness and
comprehension of aquatic ecosystem restoration, goals, and methods.
restoration should be an integral part of the conservation program to aid
recovery of habitat, riparian habitat, and water quality. The most important
components of a aquatic restoration program are control and prevention of
pollution and sediment production, restoration of the condition of riparian
vegetation, and restoration of in-stream habitat complexity (Ahalya, N. and
Ramachandra, T.V. 2001).
Restoration of Aquatic Ecosystems
to various anthropogenic activities to cater the needs of growing population,
the degradation of freshwater ecosystems by a variety of stressors has increased
logarithmically. As a result, many aquatic ecosystems are in need of some
drastic corrective measures / restoration. Restoration is the "return of an
ecosystem to a close approximation of its condition prior to disturbance"
or the reestablishment of predisturbance aquatic functions and related
physical, chemical and biological characteristics (Gwin et. al., 1999; Lewis,
1989; NRC 1992; Race, M. S. and M. S. Fonseca. 1996). It is a holistic process
not achieved through the isolated manipulation of individual elements. The
objective is to emulate a natural, self-regulating system that is integrated
ecologically with the landscape in which it occurs. Often, restoration requires
one or more of the following processes: reconstruction of antecedent physical
conditions, chemical adjustment of the soil and water; and biological
manipulation, including the reintroduction of absent native flora and fauna
(Zedler, J. 1996).
These principles focus on scientific and technical issues, but as in all environmental management activities, the importance of community perspectives and values is to be considered. Coordination with the local people and organizations that may be affected by the project can help build the support needed to get the project moving and ensure long-term protection of the restored area. In addition, partnership with all stakeholders can also add useful resources, ranging from finance and technical expertise to volunteer help with implementation and monitoring (Ramachandra T.V. 2001). Restoration principles are
Preserve and protect aquatic resources: Existing,
relatively intact ecosystems are the keystone for conserving biodiversity, and
provide the biota and other natural materials needed for the recovery of
Restore ecological integrity: Ecological
integrity refers to the condition of an ecosystem -- particularly the structure,
composition, and natural processes of its biotic communities and physical
Restore natural structure: Many aquatic resources
in need of restoration have problems that originated with harmful alteration of
channel form or other physical characteristics, which in turn may have led to
problems such as habitat degradation, changes in flow regimes, and siltation.
Restore natural function: Structure and function
are closely linked in river corridors, lakes, wetlands, estuaries and other
aquatic resources. Reestablishing the appropriate natural structure can bring
back beneficial functions.
Work within the watershed and broader landscape context:
Restoration requires a design based on the entire watershed, not just the part
of the waterbody that may be the most degraded site. Activities throughout the
watershed can have adverse effects on the aquatic resource that is being
restored. By considering the watershed context in this case, restoration
planners may be able to design a project for the desired benefits of
restoration, while also withstanding or even helping to remediate the effects of
adjacent land uses on runoff and non-point source pollution.
Understand the natural potential of the watershed:
Restoration planning should take into account any irreversible changes in the
watershed that may affect the system being restored, and focus on restoring its
remaining natural potential.
Address ongoing causes of degradation: Identify
the causes of degradation and eliminate or remediate ongoing stresses wherever
Develop clear, achievable, and measurable goals:
Goals direct implementation and provide the standards for measuring success. The
chosen goals should be achievable ecologically, given the natural potential of
the area, and socio-economically, given the available resources and the extent
of community support for the project.
Focus on feasibility taking into account
scientific, financial, social and other considerations.
Anticipate future changes: As the environment and
our communities are both dynamic, many foreseeable ecological and societal
changes can and should be factored into restoration design.
Involve the skills and insights of a multi-disciplinary
team: Universities, government agencies, and private organizations may
be able to provide useful information and expertise to help ensure that
restoration projects are based on well-balanced and thorough plans.
Design for self-sustainability: Ensure the
long-term viability of a restored area by minimizing the need for continuous
maintenance of the site. In addition to limiting the need for maintenance,
designing for self-sustainability also involves favoring ecological integrity,
as an ecosystem in good condition is more likely to have the ability to adapt to
Use passive restoration, when appropriate: Simply
reducing or eliminating the sources of degradation and allowing recovery time
will allow the site to naturally regenerate. For some rivers and streams,
passive restoration can reestablish stable channels and floodplains, regrow
riparian vegetation, and improve in-stream habitats without a specific
restoration project. Passive restoration relies mainly on natural processes and
it is still necessary to analyze the site's recovery needs and determine whether
time and natural processes can meet them.
Restore native species and avoid non-native species:
Many invasive species outcompete natives because they are expert colonizers of
disturbed areas and lack natural controls.
Use natural fixes and bioengineering techniques, where
possible: Bioengineering is a method of construction combining live
plants with dead plants or inorganic materials, to produce living, functioning
systems to prevent erosion, control sediment and other pollutants, and provide
habitat. These techniques would be successful
for erosion control and bank stabilisation, flood mitigation, and even water
Monitor and adapt where changes are necessary:
Monitoring before and during the project is crucial for finding out whether
goals are being achieved. If they are not, "mid-course" adjustments in
the project should be undertaken. Post-project monitoring will help determine
whether additional actions or adjustments are needed and can provide useful
information for future restoration efforts. This process of monitoring and
adjustment is known as adaptive management. Monitoring plans should be feasible
in terms of costs and technology, and should always provide information relevant
to meeting the project goals.
These principles focus on scientific and technical issues, but as in all environmental management activities, the importance of community perspectives and values should not be overlooked. The presence or absence of public support for a restoration project can be the difference between positive results and failure. Coordination with the people and organizations that may be affected by the project can help build the support needed to get the project moving and ensure long-term protection of the restored area (Ramachandra, T.V. et al. 2002). Thus, a sustainable water system encompass issues such as:
Environment: watershed protection, ecosystem balance, waste-water and bio-solids
Community: sufficient and reliable water supply, participation in planning and recreational use to water.
Economy: Evolution and diversification, Sustainable and long-term growth.
this overall vision, water
management system will require, among other steps, the following action to be
· Through strategic partnerships among national agencies, provincial agencies and local/city departments
· Developing alternate water sources - reclaimed/treated water, desalination, rainwater and water reuse.
· Implementing new technologies for water fees/metering, leak detection and water auditing systems
· Engage the community through education, local and regional planning processes and outreach to cultural and community groups.
· Scientific investigations involving aquifer monitoring, coastal marine environment study, supply-demand forecasting and pollution prevention.
principal components of water
management system include:
Supply optimization, including assessments of surface and groundwater supplies, water balances, wastewater reuse, and environmental impacts of distribution and use options.
Demand management, including cost-recovery policies, water use efficiency technologies, and decentralized water management authority.
Equitable access to water resources through participatory and transparent management, including support for effective water users association, involvement of marginalized groups, and consideration of gender issues.
Improved policy, regulatory and institutional frameworks, such as the implementation of the polluter-pays principle, water quality norms and standards, and market-based regulatory mechanisms.
Intersectoral approach to decision-making, combining authority with responsibility for managing the water resource.
quality and quantity are becoming increasingly critical factors of socioeconomic
development in many parts of the world. One of the milestones in managing
international and transnational water resources and boundaries was the meeting
and agreement on transboundary water management signed in Helsinki in the 1966 (ILC
Helsinki rule evolved by the International law association in 1966 (see Annexure I) are:
i) the geography of the basin including, in particular, the extent of the drainage area in the territory of each basin state;
ii) the hydrology of the basin including, in particular, the contribution of water by each basin state;
iii) the climate affecting the basin;
iv) the past utilization of the waters of the basin, including in particular, existing utilization;
v) the economic and social needs of each basin state;
vi) the population dependent on the waters of the basin of each state;
vii) the comparative costs of alternative means of satisfying the economic and social needs of each basin state;
viii) the availability of other resources;
ix) the avoidance of unnecessary waste in the utilization of the waters of the basin;
x) the practicability of the compensation to one or more of the co-basin states as a means of adjusting conflicts among users; and
xi) the degree to which the needs of a basin state may be satisfied without causing substantial injury to a co-basin state.
human populations coupled with agricultural and industrial developments increase
the water requirements. As escalating need for food in dry climate areas
increases the need for irrigation, water and water supply systems are
increasingly becoming objective of conflict. The development and implementation
of a comprehensive forward-looking integrated water resources management scheme
must include water law as an integral component. This is especially important in
upstream / downstream situations where conflicts of water use are increasingly
is evident from recent water disputes / conflicts, that what has to be shared
between those upstream and those downstream in a river basin is not the water
currently going in the river (as suggested by the concerned authorities), but
rather the rainfall over the river basin (which takes in to account scarce
rainfall period) and solutions should be based on sound economics, science, and
enlightened and enhanced political commitment. In summary, policy:
Defines the legal entitlement to water and identifies the rights and
obligations tied to water use and thus provides the prescriptive parameters for
Provides the framework to ensure the ongoing integrity of the regime
(i.e. monitoring, regulation, compliance, dispute avoidance and settlement).
Permits the rational modification of existing regimes (i.e. to meet
Water development issues must be viewed in an overall context. In conflicts between upstream and downstream users, the scenario at all levels (national, regional and international) is much the same: the downstream user generally develops first and is keen to preserve into perpetuity these senior-in-time uses. The upstream user is thus placed in the unenviable situation of justifying the legitimacy of new uses, which almost certainly will adversely affect the existing uses downstream. Planning (the formulation of plans and policies) is an important and often indispensable means to support and improve operational management. Planning has six related functions, such as:
a) To assess the current situation (including the identification of conflicts and priorities), formulate visions, set goals and targets, and thus orient operational management
To provide a framework for
organising policy relevant research and public participation
To increase the legitimacy, public acceptance of, or even support for
To facilitate the interaction and discussion among managers and
stakeholders, offer a common point of reference (the plan or policy), and thus
provide co-ordination. Planning should involve, in a systems framework, all
phenomena, institutions and issues that affect the allocation and protection of
inland waters. It should not result in negative effects on other natural
resources and should consider linkages to plans for biodiversity management,
coastal protection, ocean health, and human health and well being.
Planning should be focussed and
coherent and be in proportion to the resources available for implementation.
Planning should be rooted in the real problems to be solved and be realistic.
Planning systems should be evaluated to check whether they serve their
purpose; planning systems should not be taken for granted; given the differences
in problem situations and cultures, planning systems should reflect the local
Integrated Aquatic Ecosystem Management
aquatic ecosystem management requires proper study, sound understanding and
effective management of water systems and their internal relations (groundwater,
surface water and return water; quantity and quality; biotic components;
upstream and downstream). The water systems should be studied and managed as
part of the broader environment and in relation to socio-economic demands and
potentials, acknowledging the political and cultural context. The water itself
should be seen as a social, environmental, and economic resource, and each of
these three aspects must be represented in the political discourse. This
discourse should reflect the interests of local communities and people, their
livelihoods and their water environments. Users and managers at all levels must
be allowed to have an input. The
aim of integrated aquatic system management is to ensure the sustained
multi-functional use of the system. River basic water needs of people and
ecosystems should be fulfilled first. Essential ecological and physical
processes should be protected. Moreover, the effects on the receiving water
bodies (seas, lakes, deltas, coastal zones) should be paid full attention. The
following points (Ramachandra, T.V. et al. 2002)
need to be stressed as crucial for sustainable management:
Should be applied at catchment level. The catchment is the smallest complete hydrological unit of analysis and management. Integrated catchment management (ICM), therefore, becomes the practical operating approach. Although this approach is obviously sound and finds wide acceptance, too narrow an interpretation should be avoided.
Decentralisation should be pursued as much as possible in order to bring river basin management as close as possible to the individual citizens and facilitate local variation in response to differing local conditions and preferences. Decentralisation is also possible in case of tasks with a supra-local scope if the decentralised governments concerned co-operate (e.g. panchayaths in a river basin) or if they are supervised by a higher-level government body. The process should be transparent, phased and planned.
It is critical to integrate water and environmental management. This principle is widely and strongly supported. Integrated aquatic ecosystem management can be strengthened through the integration of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA’s), water resources modeling and land use planning. It should also be understood that a catchment or watershed approach implies that water should be managed alongside the management of codependent natural resources, namely soil, forests, air and biota.
Through a systems approach. A true systems approach recognizes the individual components as well as the linkages between them, and that a disturbance at one point in the system will be translated to other parts of the system. Sometimes the effect on another part of the system may be indirect, and may be damped out due to natural resilience and disturbance. Sometimes the effect will be direct, significant and may increase in degree as it moves through the system. While systems analysis is appropriate, analyses and models that are too complex to be translated into useful knowledge should be avoided.
The only form of river basin management that directly affects the river basin and its users is operational management (the application of regulatory, economic and communicative policy instruments and concrete activities such as infrastructure management). Consequently, it should play a pivotal role in any river basin management strategy. Planning, policies, analytical tools and institutional systems play an essential role as deciders and facilitators. They can improve operational management, promote a basin-wide, intersectoral long-term approach, and in this way further the sustained multi-functional use of the basins concerned (Rajinikanth, R. and Ramachandra, T.V. 2001).
Communicative instruments for operational management, such as voluntary agreements, can help to improve the implementation of river basin plans and policies, but they only work in relation to regulation and compliance mechanisms.
Tradable water rights can be an important tool for river basin management, but they are only effective if a number of conditions are met:
a) The basic water demands of citizens and ecosystems are safeguarded
b) The rights should be defined and agreed upon
c) Utilisation of the rights should be physically possible
d) Monopolies is to be prevented
Full participation by all stakeholders, including workers and the community. This will involve new institutional arrangements. There must be a high level of autonomy, but this must at the same time be associated with transparency and accountability for all decisions. Care should be taken to ensure that those participating in any catchment management structure do indeed represent a designated group or sector of society. It is also important to ensure that representatives provide feedback to the constituencies they represent Integrated aquatic ecosystem management seeks to combine interests, priorities and disciplines as a multi-stakeholder planning and management process for natural resources within the catchment ecosystem, centered on water. Driven bottom-up by local needs and priorities, and top-down by regulatory responsibilities, it must be adaptive, evolving dynamically with changing conditions.
Attention to social dimensions. This requires attention to, amongst other things, the use of social impact assessments, workplace indicators and other tools to ensure that the social dimension of a sustainable water policy is implemented. This will include the promotion of equitable access, enhanced role of women, and the employment and income implications of change.
Capacity building: At many levels in the process – even at the governmental level - stakeholders lack the necessary knowledge and skills for full application of Integrated aquatic ecosystem management. Community stakeholders may not be familiar with the concept of water resource management, catchment management, corporate governance, and their role in these. Capacity building categories include education and awareness raising about water; information resources for policy making; regulations and compliance; basic infrastructure; and market stability. Early and ongoing stakeholder collaboration and communication in capacity building is also important from the view point of “leveling the playing field” in anticipation of disputes that may arise. Filling strategic skills/capacity gaps supports integrated aquatic ecosystem management, facilitates dispute resolution, and builds practical understanding of the scope of sustainable natural resource development challenges and opportunities.
The capacity of all institutions needs to be maintained and/or developed by means of short-term and long-term programmes (including postgraduate education and curricula development).
Availability of information and the capacity to use it to make policy and predict responses. This implies, firstly, sufficient information on hydrological, bio-physical, economic, social and environmental characteristics of a catchment to allow informed policy choices to be made; and secondly, some ability to predict the most important responses of the catchment system to factors such as effluent discharges, diffuse pollution, changes in agricultural or other land use practices and the building of water retaining structures. The latter hinges on the adequacy of scientific models. It is recognized that predicting ecosystem response to perturbation with reasonable confidence is severely taxing current scientific capabilities, stimulating ongoing research.
Full-cost pricing complemented by targeted subsidies. This principle was strongly urged by the World Water Council at The Hague, the rationale being that users do not value water provided free or almost free and have no incentives to conserve water. Wide support for this principle was engendered, but also significant opposition from those who felt that the interests of the poor might not be sufficiently protected, even under an associated subsidy system, however well designed. Opposing views held that full-cost pricing, when applied in its narrowest sense, offends the principle that water is a public good, a human right, and not simply an economic good. Reiterating: The economic sustainability of water and sanitation services depends largely and appropriately on the recovery of costs through user fees or tariffs that are equitably assigned based on ability-to-pay. Under-served or unserved, marginalized users in many places already pay high financial costs of not having safe piped water, for example, because they are forced to pay for water trucked-in by suppliers. This water may be of dubious quality yet is expensive.
Charges are effective and efficient means to finance aquatic ecosystem management (cost recovery) and reduce water use and pollution if the basic water needs of the poor are safeguarded, e.g. by means of block tariffs.
Central government support through the creation and maintenance of an enabling environment. The role of central government in integrated catchment management should be one of leadership, aimed at facilitating and coordinating the development and transfer of skills, and assisting with the provision of technical advice and financial support, to local groups an individuals. Where specific areas of responsibility fall outside the mandate of a single government department, appropriate institutional arrangements are required to ensure effective inter-departmental collaboration.
Traditional regimes and institutions should be recognised and integrated in aquatic ecosystem management Adoption of the best existing technologies and practices - BMPs (best management practices).
Reliable and sustained financing. In order to ensure successful implementation of integrated aquatic ecosystem management approaches, there should be a clear and long-term commitment from government to provide financial and human resources support. This is complemented by income from a healthy water and sanitation market, especially when local providers of goods and services that support the water sector are active players, and when there is active reinvestment in the sector.
Equitable allocation of water resources. This implies improved decision-making, which is technically and scientifically informed, and can facilitate the resolution of conflicts over contentious issues. There are existing tools (e.g. multi-criteria analysis) to help decision-making in terms of balancing social, ecological and economic considerations. These should be tested and applied.
The recognition of water as an economic goods. The recognition of water as an economic goods is central to achieving equitable allocation and sustainable usage. Water allocations should be optimized by benefit and cost, and aim to maximize water benefits to society per unit cost. For example, low value uses could be reallocated to higher value uses such as basic drinking water supplies, if water quality permits. Similarly, lower quality water can be allocated to agricultural or industrial use.
There may be a distinct role for private entities (publicly or privately owned) in the provision of water services and water management. Private ownership of water infrastructure is a controversial issue that needs to be carefully explored.
Strengthening the role of women in water management. A review by the World Bank of 121 water projects showed that ensuring women’s participation in decision-making positively affects both project quality and sustainability (http://www.gdrc.org/uem/water).
Floods not only cause suffering but also support life. Flood management should not be based solely on building dykes and dams. It needs to be based on strategies that use both structural and non-structural methods. The strategy should balance all interests involved and be based on an integrated assessment, of the environmental, economic and human costs and benefits of these alternatives, including their potential contribution to drought mitigation and including the possibilities that they offer for nature.
The ultimate goal of pollution control is to close substance cycles and in this way prevent pollution. A mix of instruments for regulation and compliance can be used to move into this direction and solve urgent pollution problems: waste control, process and emission standards, and a water quality approach. The exact mix should reflect inter-alia the local management capacity and the availability of water quality data and other data (Ramachandra T.V. et al 2001).
Effective aquatic ecosystem management requires sound data, information and knowledge, including both data on surface and groundwater (quantity and quality) and social and economic data. Collection and processing of relevant data, easy accessibility and broad dissemination are eminent tasks of river basin management. To increase policy relevance, data should be aggregated into meaningful information, for example in the form of indicators and systems for benchmarking. Compliance monitoring (reporting, reviewing and evaluating) is very important for promoting the implementation of plans.
Sustainable aquatic resources development and management depends mainly on proper planning, implementation, operation and maintenance, which is possible with Geographic Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing techniques, complement and supplement ground data collection in various facets of different kinds of water resources projects. The synoptic large area repetitive coverage provided by satellite sensors provide appropriate database.
To support aquatic ecosystem management, a new analytical model should be developed that can aggregate socio-economic, political, institutional and technological potentials and hydrological constraints. This model should furthermore be capable of evaluating the actual management capacity.
To support strategic planning, methods for analytical support should be developed that:
ü cover the whole basin and all significant impacts;
ü specifically consider the socio-economic processes that affect the basin;
ü predict the socio-economic effects of alternative strategies; and
ü present the issues in such a way that people can understand them.
· Methods for analytical support should furthermore reflect the fact that policy analysis can never rely on quantitative information only. Moreover, these methods should be transparent and flexible, promote policy learning by all actors, and facilitate negotiation processes. Appropriate methods may include argumentative policy analysis and role-playing supported by a computer model of the natural system and the socio-economic effects.
· There is a large role for appropriate decentralised information systems and networks that can promote interaction among sectors, provide a basis for consistent technical studies, help communication with the public, and stimulate participation.
To implement the general
principles of the integrated aquatic ecosystem management requires a cyclic
policy development approach. Such an approach would include the following steps
- Assessment of institutions, needs and resources,
planning, implementation, compliance monitoring and evaluation.
financial assistance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of
India, Commonwealth of Learning, Canada and Indian Institute of Science is
acknowledged. I thank Mr.H.S.Sudhira for reading this manuscript and providing
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Issues that have come up as a result of global consultations include the promotion of a greater focus on water demand management, and conservation within the framework of integrated water resources management; encouraging a shift from the supply driven approach to meet demand on water to the demand management approach and greater efficiency to match available resources; promoting greater focus on pollution control policies within the framework of integrated water resources management to safeguard the quality of water and to maximize the safe reintegration of recycled wastewater into the water cycle as a non-conventional water source; reviewing water demand and pollution control experience across the region and identify and examine replicable strategies and models; and demonstrating the viability of water demand management and efficiency policies (http://www.idrc.org/wem/water).
Consultation on Safe Water and Sanitation for the 1990s, New Delhi, 1990
The New Delhi Statement formalised the need to provide, on a sustainable basis, access to safe water in sufficient quantities and proper sanitation for all, emphasising the "some for all rather than more for some" approach. Four guiding principles were postulated:
Conference on Water and the Environment, Dublin 1992
Four Guiding Principles were formulated:
Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1992
Agenda 21 emerged from this Conference, with Chapter 18 dealing with water issues. Chapter 18 was titled: "Protection of t-he quality and supply of freshwater resources: Application of integrated approaches to the development, management and use of water resources". Seven programme areas were proposed for the freshwater sector:
World Water Forum and Ministerial Conference in The Hague, March 2000
The World Water Vision which was presented at the Forum, defined three primary objectives: (1) to empower people and communities to decide how to use water (2) To get more crops and jobs per drop (3) to manage use to conserve freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. It deemed five actions critical to the achievement of the objectives:
World Water Council which organized the Second World Water Forum,
formulated the following Messages for a water secure world: