GUWAHATI, May 24 – Aaranyak, a conservation group, has urged Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to initiate urgent steps to ensure protection and conservation of Deepor Beel. Aaranyak which was observing the International Day for Biological Diversity with the current year theme of Water and Biodiversity, expressed serious concern at the deteriorating state of wetlands in Guwahati in particular and in Assam in general.
To mark the occasion, Aaranyak on recently organised a mass signature campaign. About 100 students from Bal Bharati School at Survey, Beltola, participated in the programme, which was also attended by a cross section of people from all age groups.
Deepor Beel which is the only Ramsar site in Assam has been severely affected because of unregulated human activities including encroachment and siltation due to unscientific hill cutting in Rani-Garbhanga forest in the vicinity. Deepor Beel acts as a storm water reservoir of Guwahati city and thereby plays a significant role in reducing flash flood in the city and recharging groundwater.
Deepor Beel plays a vital role in sheltering waterfowls of residential and migratory nature. The wetland has a perennial water-holding area of about 10.1 sqkm which extends up to 40.1 sqkm during floods. The depth increases up to 4 metres and drops to 1 metre during winter. This large water body is not only a food source and breeding ground for a large variety of aquatic birds but it also houses a wide variety of amphibians, reptiles, insects, macrophytes, terrestrial weeds, lianas and tree species of ecological and economic importance.
The Assam State Biodiversity Board and the Assam Forest Department also observed the day at Hotel Brahmaputra Ashok.
Environment and Forests Minister Rockybul Hussain in his address as chief guest stressed the need for conserving biodiversity and water resources. “Hence we are stressing on the formation of Biodiversity Management Committees involving local governance bodies to regulate and keep a check on the use of natural resources,” he said.
“Children should be moulded from a very tender age and made to understand the severe implications resulting from loss of biodiversity. In this way, we can hope to save our future generations,” the Minister added.
Chief Conservator of Forests (Wetlands) Dr Ranjana Gupta delivering the welcome address said the State was blessed with natural resources and biodiversity. She stressed the need to conserve biodiversity as it was vital for survival of the human population.
During the function, Minister Rockybul Hussain released two booklets, the Bengali version of the ‘Biological Diversity Act 2002 & Assam Biodiversity Rules, 2010’, and ‘Glimpses of Biodiversity in Assam.’
Chief Conservator of Forests (Biodiversity & Climate Change) and Member Secretary of Assam State Biodiversity Board (ASBB), AK Johari made a presentation on the need to conserve freshwater ecosystems and the need to learn to share water resources.
Renowned scientists and ASBB Board Members Dr Anil Goswami, Dr Sarat Barkakoti, RC Goswami, Dr PC Bhattacharjee, Dr Aparajita De were also present at the function.
The Government of Assam had declared 10.1 sqkm area of Deepor Beel as the ‘Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary’ in 1989. It was also proposed that the 4.1 sqkm core area be designated a ‘Bird Sanctuary’. About 122 species of seasonal, migratory and residential birds visit the beel every year. Considering the importance of the wetland, Deepor Beel has been included in Asian Wetland Directory and has been also declared as a Ramsar Site in 2002.
A majority of the biological wealth in the wetland is in a state of gradual depletion due to the impact of mounting human interference. Although the area has been declared as a Ramsar Site/ wildlife sanctuary, it has not received much attention regarding conservation.
The area is not well protected and there is no enforcement of strict laws of wildlife protection. Regular fishing both in the buffer and core zones also contributes to the degradation of the wetland.