GUWAHATI, June 23 – The wetlands in the Gauhati University premises that shelter a variety of species, including endangered ones, are fast turning into wastelands due to growing development activities and anthropogenic pressures.
Many developmental activities in and around the university and large-scale encroachment have led to shrinkage of the wetlands besides causing a rise in their water level. Hostels of the varsity have consequently faced water-logging problems for the past few years. There used to be a huge stretch of wetland behind the hostels of the varsity but following the construction of highway, the wetlands have lost their water-holding capacity. A barrage was also created following extensive earth work in its vicinity. This in turn has disturbed the natural flow of water.
There has been a long-standing demand by the students as well as the employers’ fraternity for shifting the highway that passes through the heart of the varsity. This is necessary, they reasoned, also in view of the road mishaps resulting in fatalities and injuries.
As a result, a MoU was signed between Gauhati University, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the State Government, which agreed on shifting the highway to behind the varsity. But the required environmental assessment needed for such a big project was not done, alleged the varsity community.
Talking to this correspondent, Prof Prasanta Kumar Saikia of the Department of Zoology said that the NHAI had taken bighas of land from the University for the Construction of the highway.
“The varsity has lost not only land and revenue but also the fishery adjacent to the Bhupen Hazirika Samadhi Kshetra. It was a Special Assistant Programme (SAP) funded by University Grants Commission (UGC) New Delhi,” he said.
The excess water from the university which drains into the wetlands has been obstructed due to construction of the highway. The barring of the natural flow has resulted in destruction of the wetland eco-system, plant and faunal diversity, and nutrient cycling, said Prof Saikia.
Prof Saikia added that he himself had spotted migratory birds like pintail, common pochard, red-crested pochard, wigeon spot-billed duck. Residential birds like greater adjutant (globally endangered) lesser adjutant stork (vulnerable), Asian open-billed stork, large whistling teal (endangered), bronze-winged jacana, Indian more hen, cora, etc.
Frogs like Rana tigerina, Rana crassus, Rana typehensis; fish like goroi, shal, kandhuli, Kawoi, magur, singi, puthi, etc., turtles like bor kacho, dura kacho, at least five species of turtle have been found in the wetland. Turtles weighting up to 13 kg were recorded here. Reptiles like the Burmese rock python (Python molurus vitatus) which is endangered have been found in the wetlands. The wetland was once the breeding ground of different species which has been now lost due to anthropogenic causes.