GUWAHATI, March 14 - Deepor Beel in the city is among the 26 wetlands of the country, which have been designated as Ramsar Site wetlands of international importance. An amount of Rs 362 lakh has so far been released by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to the Government of Assam under the National Wetland Conservation Programme (NWCP) for conservation etc., of this wetland.
“India is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention, which is an Inter-governmental Treaty that embodies the commitments of its member countries to maintain the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance and to plan for the ‘wise use’, or sustainable use, of all of the wetlands in their territories”, said the Ministry of Environment and Forest in its affidavit before the National Green Tribunal’s Eastern Zone (EZ) Bench in connection with the Application No 19 of 2014/EZ filed by RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury on the issue of dumping of municipal solid waste (MSW) on the Deepor Beel.
The National Wetland Conservation Programme was initiated in 1987 with an aim to conserve identified wetlands in the country to prevent their degradation and ensure their wise use for the benefit of local communities and overall conservation of biodiversity.
The Ministry is providing financial assistance for conservation and management of identified wetlands in the country, including many Ramsar sites, under the NWCP. The activities taken up under the scheme include survey and demarcation, afforestation, catchment area treatment, water management, protection measures, fisheries development, weed control, wildlife conservation, pollution abatement, eco-development, etc.
An amount of Rs 145.65 crore has so far been released to the governments in the states for implementation of conservation activities in the 80 identified wetlands.
During a meeting organised by the Ministry (MoEFCC) in November 2013 regarding integrated management of lakes and wetlands, all the states/Union Territories were requested for specific consideration on identification and notification of priority wetlands, constitution of wetland authorities, development of integrated management plans, securing resources for implementation of management plans, strengthening legal and regulatory regimes, monitoring and evaluation, and strengthening research-management interface.
But, there has been no response so far on the action taken in this regard from the state governments, said the MoEFCC in its affidavit.
It further stated that in view of the constitutional provisions for diverse uses of water being vested with the states, the state governments need to come forward with all responsibilities for conservation and regulation of water bodies within their jurisdiction. Complying with the statutory provisions in this regard, it is the responsibility of the State government and its agencies concerned to ensure that there is no dumping of solid waste as well as disposal of sewage in the Deepor Beel and no encroachment or reclamation is allowed therein.
The Government of Assam also needs to set up the State Wetland /Lake Authority empowered for regulation of activities as well as conservation of wetlands in the State in a holistic manner, said the MoEF in its affidavit, signed by Dr Hero Tynsong, the Shillong-based scientist ‘C’ in the Regional Office of the MoEFCC.