Assam’s Deepar Beel Wildlife Sanctuary Breaths Easy After Eco-Sensitive Area Notification


Deepar Beel is the state’s only Ramsar site and an important bird area.

On August 25, the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change notified the environmentally sensitive area of ​​Deepar Beel Wildlife Sanctuary on the southwestern edge of Guwahati.

Deepar Beel is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Assam and the state’s only Ramsar site in addition to being an important area for birds. The wetland has been threatened for decades by a railway line – which must be doubled and electrified – on its southern edge, a rubbish dump and the encroachment of human dwellings and business units.

The notification specified an area “to an extent varying from 294 meters to 16.32 km” as an environmentally sensitive area, the total area being 148.9767 km².

But being adjacent to “rapidly developing Guwahati,” the shrine “faces immense biotic pressure through human settlements and ever-increasing development activities,” the notification said.

The wetland extends up to 30 km² in summer and shrinks to around 10 km² in winter. The wildlife reserve measures 4.1 km² in this wetland.

Romila Boro, a 60-year-old resident of Chakardeo, the “guardian village” of the shrine, hopes the notification will save the restricted wetland. But she is sad that the “good news” came eight years too late. It was in 2014 that her husband Koliya Boro was run over by a bullet train while trying to stop hitting an approaching herd of elephants. He was one of the first environmentalists in the region.

“Zoning should help, but the water in Deepar Beel has become poisonous and it has lost many of its aquatic plants that elephants feed on. The wetland can only breathe better if the railroad tracks are rerouted, ”said Pramod Kalita, dairy farmer and greenkeeper at Chakardeo.

“No new commercial hotel complex will be allowed within 1 km of the protected area boundary or up to the extent of the environmentally sensitive area, whichever is closer, with the exception of small temporary structures for outdoor activities. ‘ecotourism,’ the notification reads. noted.

No expansion of sawmills

Prohibiting new sawmills or the expansion of existing sawmills nearby, the notification states that a new timber industry could be created in the environmentally sensitive zone using 100% imported timber.

Activities prohibited in the environmentally sensitive area include hydroelectric projects, brick kilns, commercial use of firewood, and the discharge of untreated effluent into natural water bodies or land.

Deepar Beel has long been used as a sponge for Guwahati sewage via a few streams. The wetland also suffered from toxin seepage from a neighboring Boragaon landfill.

“The Deepar Beel wetland is a unique habitat for aquatic flora and avian fauna. About 150 species of birds have been recorded in the sanctuary, of which two are critically endangered, one endangered, five vulnerable and four near threatened, ”the notification said.

“Elephants regularly visit the wetland from the adjacent Rani and Garhbhanda reserve forest and the wetland is an integral part of the elephant habitat. In addition to these, 12 species of reptiles, 50 species of fish, six species of amphibians as well as 155 species of aquatic macrobiota have been recorded in the sanctuary, ”he said.

“City waste as well as industrial effluents causing serious problems to the ecological and environmental values ​​of the rich wetland which creates a threat to all life forms and ecosystems in the Deepar Beel”, he added , also noting the railway line along the southern boundary of the wetland. with worry.

Wildlife specialist Bibhab Talukdar said if the enforcement of the rules is weak, it doesn’t matter if the environmentally sensitive area extends 10 km or 10 meters beyond a protected area.

“Deepar Beel needs the uninterrupted movement of elephants and wild birds and this should be a smart model of balancing development projects and maintaining the ecological processes of a wetland which is essential for human well-being” , did he declare.

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