Guwahati, Thursday, April 28, 2011
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State govt fails to protect wetlands
Staff Reporter

File photo of Deepor Beel
 GUWAHATI, April 27 The State Government had enacted the Guwahati Water-bodies (Preservation and Conservation) Act three years back but it seems its responsibilities ended with that, going by the deteriorating condition of the city's wetlands.

Major wetlands, like Deepor Beel and Silsako Beel, continue to reel under growing anthropogenic and industrial pressure.

Continuous dumping of untreated municipal solid waste at Boragaon in close proximity to Deepor Beel remains perhaps the biggest threat to the water body's long-term survival prospects. Tests conducted by the Pollution Control Board Assam (PCBA) had detected the presence of highly-toxic substances in Deepor's water - something regarded as a grave threat to the biodiversity and ecology of the State's lone Ramsar Site and a bird sanctuary.

Industrial activities near the wetland, too, have shown little signs of abatement, with a large number of brick kilns operating in the area.

Encroachment is another concern, which has already caused substantial shrinkage of its original area.

While only a small part (4.14 sq km) of the existing wetland has been designated as a bird sanctuary, sadly, the authorities have failed to accord protection to its sanctity.

Increasing pollution in Deepor's water can be seen well inside the protected area itself, with a blackish coat covering a part of the water.

"We have repeatedly been taking up the matter with the district administration and the municipal and metropolitan authorities but to little avail. The dumping of garbage close to the beel is definitely a threat to Deepor's survival," a forest official said.

On its part, the Forest Department, too, has not been able to check illegal fishing inside the sanctuary besides defacing of the beel's bank by picnickers during the winter. Acknowledging the problem, the official, however, claimed that fishing had been brought down to a reasonable level with better vigil as well as awareness drives conducted in the nearby villages.

"We have been doing periodical awareness campaigns among the locals so that they understand the significance of the wetland and the need to protect it. We feel awareness levels have gone up in recent times," he added.

Similarly, the State Government had announced a plan for clearing encroachments and even removing the existing (legal) structures by paying compensation and reclaiming the land. The aim was to restore the lost status of Silsako which is a major storm-water reservoir of the city. But here also, the project is progressing at a snail's pace.

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