Locals point to flaws in Assam’s Deepar Beel eco-sensitive zone

Seepage from dump and sewage from Guwahati have made sanctuary toxic, they say

September 01, 2021 01:08 pm | Updated 01:08 pm IST - Guwahati

Greater adjutant storks perch near a garbage dump near Deepar Beel bird sanctuary. File

Greater adjutant storks perch near a garbage dump near Deepar Beel bird sanctuary. File

Local stakeholders have found flaws in the eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of the Deepar Beel Wildlife Sanctuary — Assam’s only Ramsar Site — notified by the Environment Ministry on August 25.

The 4.1 sq.km. sanctuary is within the Deepar Beel, a wetland on the south-western edge of Guwahati that expands up to 30 sq. km in summer and reduces to about 10 sq. km in the winter.

The Environment Ministry’s notification specified an area “to an extent varying from 294 metres to 16.32 km” as the eco-sensitive zone, with the total area being 148.9767 sq. km.

“The notification is meaningless if the government does not stop the dumping of garbage perilously close to the wetland. Seepage from this dump and sewage from Guwahati have already made the sanctuary toxic,” Bakul Rongpi, president of Deepar Beel Eco-Development Committee, said.

He is from Mikirpara Chakardeo, where residents have for long resisted development projects around the wetland in vain.

“A thorough study of the notification showed the ESZ will serve no purpose. The minimum distance for polluting units should have been 5 km from the boundary of the sanctuary,” Chakardeo-based dairy farmer and green activist Pramod Kalita told The Hindu .

The notification is not clear about the role of the local communities, he added.

“Apart from factories and warehouses set up close to the wetland, Deepar Beel suffers from the garbage dump on its edge at Paschim Boragaon. This dump has been kept out of the ESZ, and this could have been done to book space for some industrial unit in the future,” he said.

Mr. Kalita also pointed out that Guwahati’s sewage is drained into Deepar Beel from 15-20 km away.

“What’s the point of limiting the ESZ to a few metres around the wetland if it continues to be used as a sponge for the city’s garbage and sewage?” he asked.

The Environment Ministry, Mr. Kalita added, also has to spare a thought about the railway track along the southern boundary of Deepar Beel. “Instead of realigning it, the railway is planning another track alongside, besides electrification,” he said.

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