GUWAHATI, Jan 16: Water bodies and natural reservoirs in Assam are facing the threat of extinction because of encroachment, siltation, pollution, reclamation, overfishing, and fragmentation among many other factors. Non-enforcement of laws, rules and guidelines by those at the helm of affairs is also worsening the situation.
Assam has 28 major beels and reservoirs, with many facing the extinction threat. Various departments and other authorities have miserably failed to initiate steps for checking the menace of extinction.
According to reports, because of reclamation many smaller wetlands in the State now look like paddy fields during the winter.
A major chunk of silt carried by rivers gets deposited on wetlands and reduces their depths. A number of natural water bodies like the 'Kurimara Beel' in Dibru-Saikhowa Park are almost lost because of siltation.
Pollution has its cascading effects on water bodies that have been dotted around by various types of industries. Even though such industries claim to have their own effluent treatment facilities at their sites, most of them release their effluent directly into the water bodies. The Pollution Control Board, Assam (PBCA) hasn't been able to rise to the occasion to check the menace.
Besides, most of the water bodies in the State are under encroachment. The encroachers are infamous for earth-filling the water bodies in their fringe areas, leading to their extinction slowly but certainly. Deepor Beel in Kamrup (M) is a perfect example of this menace.
There are various laws and guidelines framed by departments like Fisheries, Revenue, Forest and Environment etc. However, there is little enforcement of such laws and guidelines.
Some of the water bodies and reservoirs facing extinction threat across the State are Batha in Darrang district, Son Beel in Karimganj district, Deepor Beel in Kamrup (M), Kurimara in Tinsukia, Mer Beel in Dibruagarh district, and Arimora.
Talking to The Sentinel, retired IAS officer (Assam-Meghalaya cadre), well-known wildlife expert and conservationist Anwaruddin Choudhury said, "One way to check the menace is by declaring as protected areas all the water bodies and reservoirs such as community reserves, conservation reserves, and bird sanctuaries, among others. Annual or biennial monitoring of water bodies with satellite imageries will reflect the changes in such areas. Immediate action should be taken if changes are detected. A special Act should be enacted for the protection of wetlands in the State through the formation of a State Authority of Wetlands."
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