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Govt Plans to “Override” Elephants in ‘Deepor Beel’

Mubina Akhtar

The ‘Deepor beel’ has become a classic example how wetlands are abused due to clashes of multiple interest.

Although a protected site under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, 1971, continuous encroachment reduced this wetland to one fourth of its original size.

To make things worse, the Guwahati Municipal Corporation had chosen this Ramsar site to be the city’s municipal garbage dumping site! Degradation of this important water body started heavily with dumping of waste by the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) in close proximity of the water body since 2006, flouting all norms of municipal solid waste rules.

The death of Greater Adjutant Storks in the vicinity of Deepar beel, tells the story of how the GMC and the sheer apathy of the state forest department has turned this important bird area turn into a danger zone for the globally threatened species!

Deepor, as the very name suggests, is a traditional refuge of the elephant and has been protected as a wildlife sanctuary. The sanctuary, in order to remain alive and perform some definite ecosystem services, needs more a conservational approach. However, the new government policies seem to ride over this very fact. The Guwahati smart city mission envisages Deepar beel as a water park. It has been reported that a high level meeting chaired by the state Chief Minister recently has come up with plans of constricting the protected area boundaries of the Sanctuary to its half!

Continuous encroachment has already reduced this once 4,000 hectare (ha) wetland shrunk into less than 500 ha area! The focus of the government should be to conserve the wetland ecosystem of this wildlife sanctuary rather then turning it to a recreational park with the sole intention of revenue generation!

Exploitation of wildlife habitats for other has been a serious lapse in our policy decisions. Would anyone kindly tell the CM that the Deepor as a wildlife sanctuary has been secured for elephants and his plan to “transform Deepor Beel into an attractive tourist destination” would compromise the very basis of our conservation goals? Wildlife requires inviolate space. What we need at the moment is a change in presumption of our policymakers that wildlife can be conserved under all kinds of development and sustainable use!

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