Land reclamation means creating land either by removing water from muddy areas or raising the level of the land. The reclamation of water bodies for urban land use is a common phenomenon because of rapid burst of population growth due to in-migration in urban areas as well as unsustainable urbanisation.
Reclamation of water bodies into urban land use has many environmental consequences such as:
1. Aquatic Ecosystem: degradation of water ecology and influx of nutrients Ex: Dal Lake, Srinagar.
2. Extinction of Water bodies: Deepor beel in Guwahati is a well-known example of water bodies that were encroached.
3. Frequent Floods: Water bodies act as sponges for extra rainfall, reclamation of water bodies, has led to higher incidences of floods. Ex: Chennai Floods.
4. Affects Aquatic Species: Land reclamation of wetlands have increased the Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) which is detrimental for not only aquatic species but also for aerial fauna. Ex: Hussain Sagar lake. Land reclamation of Hussain Sagar Lake in Telangana, have increased the BOD to 116 mg/l.
5. Pollution: Many water bodies in Bengal and Guwahati’s Deepor beel, for example, have been used by the municipal corporation to dump solid waste.
6. Land subsidence: The soil has very low holding capacity and hence the settlements built on it will be subjected to subsidence. Ex: Uttarakhand.
Water bodies provide ecosystem services like food, water, fiber, groundwater recharge, water purification.
In addition they help in flood moderation, storm protection, erosion control, carbon storage and climate regulation. Hence water bodies must be conserved at all cost.