Assam's wetland, Deepar beel, under threat

Published: Thursday 15 March 2007

the 33rd National Games, which ended on February 18 in Guwahati, Assam, has once again brought into focus the plight of Deepar beel, a degraded wetland. It was the venue for the rowing competitions at the games.

Though a protected site under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, 1971, the area has been suffering from environmental degradation due to continuous encroachment and waste dumping. In fact, the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (gmc) dumps all its waste in the vicinity. Since July 2006, it has started dumping waste in Paschim Boragaon Garchuk, which is closer to the waterbody.

Once spread over 4,000 hectare (ha), the wetland has now shrunk to 500 ha. It used to be home to over 200 species of migratory birds. "In January 2006, nine storks were found dead, which might have been caused by toxic wastes," said Bibhab Talukdar of Aaranyak, an environmental organisation in Assam."The site now faces various natural and anthropogenic threats, primarily from the development of industries within the periphery of the site, illegal hunting of wild animals and deforestation," says Achintya Bezbaruah of North Dakota University. Continuous garbage dumping by gmc is also causing health problems among the local residents, who accuse gmc of breaching the municipal solid waste rules and demand dumping be stopped immediately.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Assam Pollution Control Board, J L Dutta, says that an expert team is looking into the waste dumping issue and will come up with a decision shortly.

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