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Is Deepor Beel, the lungs of Guwahati, gasping for Breath?

Updated: Feb 3, 2022

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children. We are all familiar with this proverb, but do we understand the message within the words?

Google images

Every Year on the 2nd of February, the world celebrates Wetland Day to commemorate the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands. The day helps raise awareness about the importance of the wetlands and remind everyone of the many ways it benefits this Earth. We all know that wetlands act as a buffer protecting the coast from flooding and storms. The wetlands provide a biologically diverse ecosystem and are home to animals and insects. Wetlands are the lungs of the Earth, and thus they also purify and filter the water naturally by breaking down the harmful pollutants. Nature protects and nurtures the land through the wetlands and helps protect soil erosion. Wetlands act as the bridge between the land and water and hence, are crucial to life.

Deepor Beel is natures' gift to Assam, particularly to Guwahati city. We must realize the importance of the wetland before it is too late.

Members of AMTCT and RWS

Assam Medical Tourism Council Trust team with the members of Nature's Orbit, Rural Welfare Society, Anuyoga, Anajoree and GGhealthmate joined efforts towards a community outreach programme at Deepor Beel on the occasion of World Wetland Day 2022. “If the Wetlands disappear due to unregulated urbanization many species of plants and animals living here and not found anywhere else would cease to exist as well. Many have ceased to exist already," said Pramod Kalita, a resident and grassroots environment crusader of Deepor Beel.

Pramod Kalita lamenting the condition of the Ramsar Site

So, what ails Deepor Beel? A myriad of threats is silently tightening the noose around the once buoyant and pristine waters of Deepor Beel. The monstrous threat of unplanned urbanization and construction around Deepor Beel has already made inroads into the original water spread area. Soon, the beel would be facing destruction due to artificial flash floods, Pramod Kalita sadly voiced the many reasons threatening his beloved Deepor Beel.

“Wetlands are the lungs of nature and essential for the balance of the environment. If we ignore the alarm bells today, we may face a silent spring devoid of birds and a dried ecosystem very soon”. He went on to echo what experts had said about environmental degradation around the water body.

Can we preserve the pristine waters?

Experts have listed the following major threats to the Deepor Beel ecosystem: Fragmentation of hydrological regime, siltation, pollution, encroachment and land reclamation, species invasion, including alien species, unregulated recreation and tourism, over-harvesting of resources and climate change. Threats include accumulation of wastes from the Bharalu and Bahini rivers, unregulated fishing practice, industrial development within its periphery, construction of railway line along the southern boundary, quarrying within the beel ecosystem.

The RRC approved Action Plan for Deepor Beel says that the polluted stretch of Deepor Beel is 40.14 sq. km near Boragaon. Encroachment, cement structures and other activities have contributed to the shrinking of the beel. The waters of the Beel gets blocked due to the railway embankment threatening the wetland ecosystem.

Pollution, wastes of all sorts from the Metro City, flow to Deepor Beel with the waters of the Bharalu and Bahini rivers unleashing the pandora's box of woes unlimited.

Cleanliness drive

Creating Memories: Members of Natures Orbit, Anaajoree Trust, Anuyoga and Dr Bijuj Jahan Saleha Begum, A. R O of Animal Health Centre, Guwahati.

Waste collection and cleanliness drive

During the outreach program for the community, Dr Plabita Chelleng, senior Pathologist downtown hospitals, gave a health and mental wellness talk focusing on general hygiene and precautions that all should follow during and post-pandemic. She also spoke on the importance of healthy food habits based on local resources. The people present, especially the children benefited, from a Yoga session led by Anuradha Mahanta and Kangkan Deka from Anuyoga. The session with the community was further enriched, with an interactive talk by Sabina Sarkar, founder of the Rural Welfare Society. She spoke about different ways that would help uplift communities in rural areas. The interactive session was enriched by Milin Dutta, founder of Anaajoree. Milin Dutta's presence inspired all present as he strives for social change and upliftment of communities.

The untreated waste from the Boragaon Dumping site has made a hell here, said Pramod Kalita with a sigh. The water plants are dying, so the birds do not flock here in numbers as before. Just 70 species of birds can be seen compared to 272 species earlier.

Since the aquatic vegetation is on the verge of becoming extinct, elephant herds move onward to find fodder in the paddy fields. Thus, there is a routine man-animal conflict. Pramod Kalita dreads the day the double line railway tracks would come up in the vicinity. Not so long ago, the speeding trains had mowed down 15 elephants who were crossing the railway line that intersected the elephant corridor. Is it right to kill a biodiversity hotspot in the name of saving a few crores? Can money buy back oxygen and nature? Pramod Kalita said with a lost look on his tired face.

Let Nature Breathe so we can breathe too. With all due respect to NFR, we plead to all concerned not to enhance the speed limit of the trains in the Deepor Beel elephant corridor from the existing 30 kilometres per hour to 40 kilometres per hour. Any development at the cost of natural degradation is not warranted at all. We do not have the right to destroy Gods gift. There are ways to co-exist and live in harmony. So, what if a few crores extra get spent? The proposed new railway tracks can be diverted and avoid the Beel area, cant it, Pramod Kalita pleaded.

Will the beauty fade?

What shall we leave behind?

I saw a flicker of hope in his eyes. We hope that many other eco-warriors would have to keep the fight on and ignite more sparks because saving Deepor Beel will indeed save our present and future. We do not need malls, multiplex and all the citytopias out there, do we? If we can plant more trees and regulate our waste disposal and learn to live within the fold of nature, the Earth shall smile.

AMTC Trust strives to nurture and promote medical tourism in the North East and beyond. We need to work together to place NER at the helm of the Medical Tourism map. We can do this when we join hands to work towards a healthy society and healthy environment and thus work towards sustainable development. My friends, it is high time we act for People and Nature. Happy World Wetlands Day.

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1 Comment

Feb 02, 2022

Very nicely elaborated. thanks

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