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The East Kolkata Wetlands is located towards the eastern fringes of the city. Unlike other wetlands which are used for the purpose of rainwater harvesting, this one is used for wastewater purification by all natural means.

Setting up a mechanical plant for sewage treatment would afford be too costly and it has many other contributions to the life we lead by creating an impact in small but great ways.

It includes 32 revenue villages. It was recognized as a Ramsar site internationally in 2002 due to its wise practices in waste management. This area was first mapped by Dr. Dhrubajyoti Ghosh. This was the first mapping of any wetland in the country.

Besides naming them, he also explained its working. A part of treated water is used for:

  1. Paddy cultivation
  2. Vegetable farming
  3. Fishing

Here we see a unique symbiosis between algae and bacteria. The wetlands are exposed to sunshine which is trapped by the algae and the waste is broken down by the bacteria. Very surprisingly, the effluents produced during the treatment are not thrown away but used for irrigation purposes, benefiting the crops grown here.

After decomposing the sewage water, the bacteria release carbon dioxide which is used by the algae for photosynthesis. The algae releases oxygen as a by-product and the bacteria utilizes the same for respiration.

Since fish graze on algae, this algae bacteria symbiosis helps in producing fish. The fish have a nature of swimming against the flow of water. So a “pata”(sieve made of bamboo) is used to stop the fish from moving out.      

Also when water hits the banks there is a chance for the bank to wear down. Water hyacinth is grown to prevent the bank erosion. It forms a lacing protecting the bank. The fishermen, instead of using bricks applied an innovative method, setting an example of ecological engineering.        

During summer, the water hyacinth lacing acts as an umbrella for the fishes which hide under it to escape the heat.

Fishing is a common occupation here.  Large nets are used for this purpose which  have to be dried once they are done with. These are spread on huge  bamboo structures.

They require maintenance and are repaired at regular intervals by the villagers who earn their livelihood this way. The fishing activity begins at dawn when dissolved oxygen levels are low under the water and the fish rise up to the surface to breathe.

East Kolkata Wetlands

The place houses a beautiful ecosystem and is no less than a habitat. It is the abode of various species of birds some of which are migratory and are observed from time to time. Above were the pictures of few of the various birds found here. The wetlands truly boast of a rich variety of birds.

As said earlier this place has also contributed to the cheap economy in Kolkata till this day as the vegetables and fish are sent to nearby areas and some markets. This saves up the transportation cost in the nearby areas.

Within the protected Ramsar site exists illegal waste plastic recycling units which pose a threat to this beautiful place causing more pollution to air and water.

All said and done the title of the article is self explanatory. The word diminishing refers to the gradually disappearing consciousness most humans possess today. If this goes on, Kolkata will be robbed of one of its greatest privileges and no sooner would the wetlands be known as the once existing geography that became history.

Sadly, most Indians are unaware of its existence whereas some citizens residing in other countries are. The East Kolkata  Wetlands along with  another wetland in Uganda are considered two of the best of their kind. Now the EKW has merely become real estate in waiting.  

Interestingly the words of a fish farmer who was born and brought up in the wetland community are “You can’t breathe without the wetlands as water is the origin of all things positive.

People of Kolkata need to come forward to keep it intact.” He appeals on behalf of the wetland community “We are the wetlands. Save us. If we live we will keep giving life to you.” He explains the indicators of time being provided by nature as the hoots of the owl after every 3 hours acts as a signal.

This itself says a lot about how the knowledge of the wetland community and their experiences has sustained them. Living creatively with nature is truly an art.

People have been living here for more than 80 years and the thought of being uprooted is a terrible one.  Homelessness is a fear that once entered the mind gets even scarier.

Let us all join hands and pledge to contribute in the smallest possible way to make a change and prevent the wetlands from turning into a concrete jungle. We are the future, we are the youth who can bring in a change. So let us raise our voices against this cause.

Someone had truly said “our lives end the day we stop thinking about things that matter.” This is the time. It is either now or never.

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