Study to suggest ways of protecting birds, fish and Ganges River Dolphins

The Union government will soon declare the world's largest river island of Majuli an eco-sensitive zone, Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh said on Tuesday.

It will request the Bombay Natural History Society to take up a comprehensive study to suggest ways of protecting birds, fish and Ganges River Dolphins there.

Mr. Ramesh said the Assam government was asked to submit a project proposal. The declaration of Majuli an eco-sensitive zone would also help protect the river island from the recurring problem of floods and erosion.

He assured full cooperation by the Centre in protection of the land mass and rich culture and heritage of the river-island.

The erosion of the river island has reached a critical stage, with the total landmass coming down from 1,256 sq.km. in 1950 to 514 sq.km. in 1990.

As per official records, the land mass is getting eroded at the rate of 7.4 sq.km. a year.

Assam Environment and Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain, who accompanied Mr. Ramesh on his visit to the river island, said the State government would submit the proposal soon.

Mr. Ramesh, who made the announcement after a representation by the local residents and Satra dwellers, said the Centre would ensure that the decision would not affect the traditional livelihood of the people of the river island.

Rich bio-diversity

Making the river island an eco-sensitive zone would be the first step towards recognising the rich bio-diversity and unique eco-system of Majuli, he said, speaking to journalists after visiting Uttar Kamalabari Satra, one of the 22 old Vaishnavite monasteries, known as Satra in Assamese.

He interacted with the Satradhikar (the monastery head), Janardan Deva Goswami, to learn about the cultural heritage of the Satra system.

He also inspected the library of the Satra, which boasts of a rich collection of centuries-old manuscripts.

Mr. Ramesh said the Centre had accepted the recommendation of the 13th Finance Commission for providing Rs.5 crore to the island over five years for preservation of the cultural heritage of the river island.

Earlier, he inaugurated a tourism complex on the island.

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