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1,367 wetlands in State facing serious threat: Prof Sarma
Ajit Patowary

A file photo of Joysagar in Sivasagar district.
 GUWAHATI, Dec 25 - Wetlands of the State are playing an important role in keeping intact the distinctive natural environment of the State. But due to several factors, out of its total 3,513 wetlands, 1,367 are facing serious threats to their existence. Most of the wetlands of the State are now robbed of their self-purification capacities, mostly because of the developmental activities and if the present situation is allowed to continue any further, these water bodies will become myths in the near future, warned Prof Kaliprasad Sarma of the Department of Environmental Science, Tezpur University.

Prof. Sarma has almost single-handedly done a very fascinating study on the State’s wetlands. This study on the wetlands of the State, which included physical survey of the wetlands too, resulted in a monograph on the State’s wetlands, which is perhaps the first of its kind, despite it being a very preliminary effort.

He asserted that though Assam is listed seventh in terms of the area covered by the wetlands, but, so far, as the number of freshwater wetlands is concerned, Assam tops the list of the Indian States. Some other States like Lakshadweep, Andaman-Nicobar, Daman and Diu, Gujarat, Pondicherry and West Bengal, have recorded more wetlands. But most of their wetlands are coastal, said Prof Sarma.

Wetlands have been occupying around 7, 64,372 hectares of the State’s land, covering around 9.74 per cent of its area. Among the wetlands, natural ones are occupying a dominant place with a share of 96.65 per cent. Among the State’s natural wetlands, swamps or marsh have a share of 42.9 per cent, he said.

Prof Sarma physically surveyed and studied 164 natural beels and 11 man-made tanks of the State to prepare the monograph – Ardrabhumi Aru Asom – at the instance of the then Vice Chancellor of Tezpur University Prof MK Choudhury and Dean of the Humanities and Social Sciences Dr Pradip Jyoti Mahanta.

Prof Sarma has also taken the help of newspaper reports, research papers and some of his colleagues in Tezpur University to prepare the monograph. The monograph is published by the University rendering a rather seminal service to the study of the wetlands of the State, which has so far remained a neglected area.

The wetlands he has undertaken for his study are selected according to their socio-cultural, socio-economic etc., importance. He, however, while talking to this correspondent said that it is important to conduct a comprehensive physical survey to determine the exact number of wetlands and their roles in the environment and the society of the State.

Prof Sarma has tried to collect detail accounts of the wetlands he has surveyed and studied and the revealing pictures of major as well as minor wetlands spread over the State. He has undertaken the pain to focus on the bio-geochemistry of the wetlands, their characteristics, value and functions, their ecological interactions and their bio-geochemical cycles.

He has tried to give an indepth analysis and description of geographical location and environmental significance of the above socially important natural wetlands and 11 historically important tanks. He has also described the physiography, the underlying hydrologic conditions, hydric soil and source of water, type of wetlands, social importance and biodiversity, including aquatic vegetation, birds and fish of the State’s wetlands.

He has also provided an in-depth look at the physic-chemical properties of water and soil of different freshwater wetlands of the State. The wetlands of protected areas such as the forest, sanctuary and national parks are delineated in a separate section for the first time in his monograph. Such assessment enables a holistic view to be taken of the wide range of services wetlands can provide.

Besides, he has prepared a list of 274 registered and around 1,350 non-registered beels and appended it to the monograph as annexure.

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