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| Last Updated:13/01/2020

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Swan canalisation threat to natural wetlands


The canalisation of the Swan in Una district has helped in reclaiming thousands of acres of agriculture land, but has also threatened many natural wetlands.

The destruction of natural wetlands has destroyed the natural habitat of many rare wildlife species, including the sarus crane. The wetlands of the Swan were the breeding ground for the species.

Wildlife experts have reported a considerable decline in number of sarus cranes visiting the Swan wetlands. Prabhat Bhatti, a wildlife expert, has said just a few birds are seen in the area as their habitat has been destroyed primarily due to the channelisation of the river.

It has also led to a decline in the groundwater level in many areas of Una district. The water level in areas adjoining the Swan and its tributaries has a very high water level. At certain places, farmers have installed artisan wells due to the high water levels.

Experts attribute the reduction in water to the over-exploitation of underground water and canalisation of the Swan. They say natural wetlands in the Swan used to recharge groundwater. After canalisation, water is not retained in the riverbed and recharging of underground water has decreased.

The Swan originates in the Talwara area of Punjab, passes through Una district and merges in the Sutlej near Anandpur Sahib. It has over 70 tributaries, generally seasonal rivulets bringing water from the Shivalik hills in the monsoon.

The Swan is a perennial river and the water in it peaks during the monsoon. Due to floods in the Swan, it was also once called the sorrow of Una district. Small and large wetlands were created in the river and its tributaries.

The state government spent over Rs 500 crore on the canalisation of the Swan. A project of about Rs 600 crore has been sent to the Union Ministry of Water Resources for the canalisation of tributaries of the Swan.

Though canalisation will help in containing floods and reclaiming thousands of acres of water-logged land, its impact on the environment and underground water in Una is an aspect that is worrying environmentalists.

They are of the view that the government should make provisions for water recharging in the Swan so that underground water does not go down at an alarming rate.

(The Tribune 03-12-2012)