Floods are generally considered destructive but in some cases, overflowing rivers have the potential to create wetlands. These wetlands can serve as agreeable landscapes that turn resourceful due to the multiple functions it can host. The Kanwar Lake in Bihar is a striking example of this shared, altering landscapes.
The Kanwar Lake is a large floodplain wetland between the Gandak and the Kosi rivers in north Bihar. Spanning 67 sq. km, the wetlands offer many ecosystem services like recharging groundwater and buffering incoming floods. While the wetland is a designated bird sanctuary hosting several migratory water birds in the winters, it also sustains the livelihoods of thousands of farmers as well as fisher households. Despite its high socioeconomic and ecological significance, it has received little attention in the regional and local development planning.
The land-use changes have triggered the transformation of this multifunctional resource and created a trade-off between provisioning and regulating ecosystem services. A large part of the wetland has been converted to permanent agriculture. As a result, the open water area of the lake has been reduced drastically. This focus on wetland agriculture at the cost of fisheries has created a friction between farmers and fishers. Although the gains from the agricultural transformation in the Kanwar Lake is worth Rs 12.7 million, the loss is much higher, mainly due to diminished fishing activities and other eco-services like reduction in tourism.
An ongoing study of the area by researchers has found that the ecosystem services of the Kanwar Lake operate at the maximum value if the wetland is managed as it was in the 1970s. At that time, the entire wetland was allowed to stay inundated for close to six months, thus, helping restore the lake’s natural ecosystem. This also helps to put in place a diverse land-use system for the use of this wetland region and enable shared resources.
According to the researchers, incorporating local stakeholders like the fisher and the farming community into the lake restoration management may help to devise practical methods to restore the Kanwar Lake. With proper management and wise use, the Kanwar Lake can leap right back to its past glory. Moreover, the revival of a lake is the revival of all related parties and economy and that is something to celebrate, isn’t it?
‘Lets Invest in Nature’ (#LetsInvestInNature) is a special series of video stories designed by the Indo-German Biodiversity Programme. It is dedicated to estimating and mainstreaming the true economic value of biodiversity in business-related decisions and policy making. Watch this short video for more information.