Guwahati, Monday, August 31, 2020
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Need to demarcate Deepor Beel’s boundary
Ajit Patowary

 GUWAHATI, Aug 30 - The Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary, which is an integral part of Deepor Beel, the lone Ramsar Site wetland of the State, needs to have its boundary properly demarcated and its Integrated Management Plan formulated. This is important also due to the fact that this wildlife sanctuary is inalienably linked with the Rani and Garbhanga Reserve Forests’ (RFs) ecosystems too. Besides, the very location of the wetland demands that the existing watch tower of the Forest Department and the restaurant with picnic spot should be shifted to its northern bank.

 Deepor Beel was declared a Ramsar Site in 2004. A 4.1 sq km area of it was notified by the State Government as a wildlife sanctuary on February 21, 2009. This wetland is a large natural wetland and it has a great ecological importance, besides being the ‘only major storm water storage basin for the city of Guwahati.’

Many migratory birds visit this wetland during the winter and wild elephants from Rani and Garbhanga RFs also visit this wetland frequently for foraging. But the Deepor Beel Wildlife Range’s existing watch tower, which is used to watch the movement of the elephants coming down from the Rani and Garbhanga RFs to the wetland, together with the picnic spot and the restaurant, has been causing disturbance to the jumbos as the campus of the watchtower and the restaurant and its adjacent picnic spot are located just near an important elephant corridor.

Considering all these, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Guwahati Wildlife Division pleaded with the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden of the State through a letter on August 4, 2020 (No A/GWL/EcoTourism/Deepar Beel/2020/1080), for proper demarcation of the boundary of the Deepor Beel and formulation of an Integrated Management Plan in accordance with the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 of the Union Government. “…all development planning of Deepar Beel shall take place after proper demarcation of its Boundary and preparation of Integrated Management Plan as per the new Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 of the Government of India and giving due consideration to the movement of wild elephants of Rani and Garbhanga Reserve Forests to Deepar Beel,” said the DFO.

The DFO, who was offering his views on the proposal of the Forest Department to develop the Deepor Beel area under the ‘Uttoron’ scheme for subsidiary tourism and eco-development activities, stated that the entire stretch of land starting from Deochotal to Chakradeo, and even beyond them on both east and west, is used by the wild elephants of Rani and Garbhanga RFs as passage to Deepor Beel. This is because of the fact that this wetland is a part of the elephant habitat and contiguous to Rani RF, he said.

He maintained that increased human presence on the southern bank of the wetland may lead to stopping the movement of wild elephants from Rani RF to Deepor Beel permanently. “Therefore, the watch tower and restaurant with picnic spot should be constructed on the northern bank (of the wetland), as per the new Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 of the Government of India,” said the DFO.

He reasoned that after restoration of the wetlands and improvement in the visitor facilities, there will be increased inflow of visitors to the site, which will create disturbance to the jumbos visiting the water body.

The Garbhanga RF elephants come to Deepor Beel via the Rani RF and both these RFs are habitats of over 100 Asian elephants and thus are important habitats of the jumbos, besides other wildlife ecologically important for our environment. Since 1986, the Asian elephant has been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

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