GUWAHATI, Feb 24 - “Conservation of wetlands plays a vital role in eco-system and vegetation development. The wetlands of Kaziranga National Park support spectacular concentration of wildlife like the great one-horned rhino, water buffalo, eastern swamp deer and various species of migratory and resident birds, fishes and reptiles. Grave consequences for wildlife have been associated with the shrinking of wetlands.”
This was observed by Prasanna Baruah, Senior Scientific Officer of Assam Remote Sensing Application Centre while speaking on the ‘Status of Wetlands in Kaziranga National Park: A Geospatial Analysis’ during a conclave held at the Convention Centre of Kaziranga recently.
“Erosion, siltation, shallowing of wetlands, invasion by tall grassland and reduction of wet short grass area have become major threats for Kaziranga,” he warned, adding that wetland mapping is the first step to monitor this crucial part of the eco-system.
Mapping of wetlands by using geo-spatial tool can be done accurately at minimal cost and manpower use. Monitoring at multiple spatial and temporal scales can support better understanding of the eco-system for continuous assessment and analysis of future trends, he added.
The conclave on ‘Climate Change Threats on Wetland Eco-system of Protected Areas and their Management’ was organised by Kaziranga Wildlife Society and Assam Science Technology and Environment Council (ASTEC).
Dr Jaideep Baruah, Head of the Environment Division of ASTEC, in his opening remarks said that wetlands form a unique eco-system and the role of wetlands was enormous in maintaining environmental quality, control of floods, ground water recharge and livelihood support.
“Wetlands provide water and habitat for a diverse range of plants and animals and therefore are the richest among all eco-systems from the bio-diversity point of view,” he said.
He stressed on the need for identification and delineation of wetland areas and periodic monitoring of the physical status of wetlands in protected areas.
Detailing the objectives of the conclave, Mubina Akhtar, secretary of Kaziranga Wildlife Society dwelt on the threats posed by climate change to all eco-systems, especially the wetland eco-system, which was the most vulnerable because wetlands were the least protected ecosystems.
The New Wildlife Action Plan 2017-2031 (NWAP) of India sets out the framework for governmental intervention and management plans to be developed in the protected areas in the coming 15 years by prioritising development and conservation goals.
On the other hand, the thematic focus on climate change – an entirely new approach in conservation discussions – would set the tone for research specific to climate change, including long-term monitoring and assessment of change in the distribution of vegetation types and eco-systems, she said.
“Kaziranga Wildlife Society now in its golden jubilee year and with the core objectives – to protect, preserve and propagate nature, wildlife and environment – has sought collaboration with the ASTEC for exchange of scientific ideas on the status of wetlands and threats of climate change on wetland eco-system in protected areas and to create a policy discourse between CSOs and government departments/agencies for effective management of wetland eco-system in protected areas,” she said.
Earlier, opening the discussion, Dr Pradip Sharma, former Associate Professor of Cotton University, gave a presentation on the effect of climate change and wetland degradation in protected areas and showed the implications of climate change on the wetland eco-system.
Haobam Suchitra Devi, Senior Scientist of North Eastern Space Applications Centre, Shillong gave an analysis of land cover dynamics in Kaziranga National Park by using geo-spatial technology, said that bank erosion is the main cause for the loss in area in KNP and the eastern range of the Park is the most affected one.
The result also showed a gradual reduction in woodland till 1988 and again an increasing trend. Land cover in the park is also very dynamic in nature. Wetlands have changed to grassland and woodland, grasslands to woodlands. Short grassland although occupy less area, is showing an increasing trend. Therefore, monitoring land cover is of utmost priority for management of the park, the scientist warned.
The Divisional Forest Officer of KNP Rohini Ballav Saikia summarised the findings of the recent Waterfowl Survey in the water bodies of the park taken up by the department last December. He hoped that future surveys would engage more participants, especially from the students’ community.
A film show on the great one-horned rhino was held for students in the post- lunch session. Raj Phukan of Green Guard Nature Organisation interacted with the students along with a slide show on the effects of climate change on our environment.
Padum Borthakur, president of Kaziranga Wildlife Society informed the students that the future of this earth depends on our young generation and each young people must metamorphose into a foot soldier in the conservation movement.
Arup Duarah, Headmaster of Dholaguri ME School urged the students to remain vigilant against environmental crimes happening around us. Dr Jaideep Baruah and Dr Pradip Sharma also interacted with the students from Kaziranga National Park School, Vivekananda Kendriya Vidyalaya of Golaghat and Dholaguri ME School.
Office-bearers and members of KWS – Sourav Mahanta, Chandan Gogoi, Ronjit Dohutia, Alak Sarma, Hariprasanna Gogoi, ACF Kaziranga PV Truinbak, Bhrigu Kalita (NESA), Achinta Goswami, Principal of Golaghat VKV, Bhawani Khatiwara, teacher of Kaziranga National Park School and members of WWF-India and WTI, besides Green Guard Nature Organisation participated in the programme.