Wetlands of Assam

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Report on Visit to Deepor Beel in Assam – a wetland included under National Wetland Conservation and Management Programme of the Ministry of Environment & Forests. 13-14 August 2008

1.

Context

The Expert Team constituted by the Planning Commission, Government of India, to Review the status of implementation of the National Wetland Conservation and Management Programme (NWCMP) of the Ministry of Environment & Forests, by visiting selected wetlands in the country, made an on-the-spot review and assessment of the Deepor Beel near Guwahati in Assam. This was the third wetland visited after Chilika and Vembanad-Kol.

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Visit itinerary

The Team comprising Dr.(Mrs.) Indrani Chandrasekharan, Advisor(E&F), Planning Commission, Dr. T. Balasubramanian, Director, CAS in Marine Biology, Annamalai University and Dr. V. Sampath, Ex-Advisor, MoES and UNDP Sr. National Consultant, visited Deepor Beel on 13th & 14th(FN) August 2008 and held discussions with Dr.Jaideep Baruah, Scientific Officer & Head i/c, Environmental Division, Assam Science Technology & Environment Council (ASTEC); Dr. A.K. Baruwa, Retd. Director, ASTEC; Mr. M.C. Malakar, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wild Life) & Chief Wildlife Warden, Assam; B. S. Bonal, Chief Conservator of Forests (Wild Life); and Dr. U.C. Goswami, Prof. Dept. of Zoology, Guwahati University – a Member of the National Wetland Management Board. Details of presentations and discussions held are at Annexure-1. This was followed by a field visit to the Beel area in the outskirts of Guwahati.

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Deepor Beel, Guwahati, Assam
Deepor Beel (Beel means wetland or large aquatic body in Assamese) located about 10 km southwest of Guwahati city is considered as one of the large and important riverine wetlands in the Brahmaputra valley of lower Assam, India. Deepor Beel is an open lake basin connected with a set of inflow and out flow channels. Originally, the beel had its natural linkages with the river Brahmaputra through the Sola Beel and the swampy areas of Pandu to the northeast. Due to construction of residential buildings, NH-37 and Railway line the main link has already been disrupted and it remains as a small secondary channel. A perennial stream originating from Basistha runs through the heart of the beel and joins the river Brahmaputra through Khanamukh towards north of the Beel. The stream is also fed by Bharalu river.

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Documents indicate ,including those submitte the UNESCO, that ,Deepor beel is spread ove area of 40.14 sq km during the monsoon (incl encroached/reclaimed/developed area of 30.8 km ). The Beel is currently estimated to c 9.27 sq km. However the actual waterbo only 4.1 Sq Km. Depth of the Beel ranges about 6 m to 1.5 m depending on the se monsoon or dry season. The site is reporte support a number of IUCN red-listed species.

A view of Deepor Beel

. Deepor Beel has both biological and environmental importance besides being the only major storm water storage basin for Guwahati city. It is considered as one of the staging sites for migratory birds in India; and some of the large congregations of aquatic birds in Assam during winter. Because of the richness of avian fauna it enjoyed, Deepor Beel has been selected as one of the Important Bird Area (IBA) sites by Birdlife International. Deepor beel has also been designated as a Ramsar Site in November 2002. Deepor beel provides a means of livelihood for a number of local families. Nymphaea nuts, flowers, etc., are harvested for sale in the local markets and these constitute valuable natural crops. The seeds of giant water lily, annually leased by the government revenue department, is also another major source of revenue after fish.

Sewage from Guwahati – a major source of pollution - entering Deepor Beel

Nymphaea seed & flower

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The Beel is reported to support threatened species of birds like spotbilled pelican, lesser adjutant stork, greater adjutant stork, black necked stork, and...
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