Deepor Beel

Deepor Beel, Assam’s only Ramsar Site is a wetland on the south-western edge of Guwahati city, in Kamrup district. 

Aspirants can go through the complete list of Ramsar Sites in India on the linked page. 

Since the topic has been in the news recently, knowledge about Deepor Beel is important for candidates preparing for the IAS exam (under Environment and Geography of GS III and GS I respectively), as well as any other competitive exam candidates.

Deepor Beel – Why in the news?

Recently, the Kamrup (Metropolitan) district administration of Assam has prohibited community fishing at Deepor Beel.

  1. The order was necessary to prevent fishing, excavation and construction in and around the wetland that has been shrinking over the years.

Details regarding Deepor Beel will help aspirants prepare for the upcoming UPSC Prelims and Mains examination.

Deepor Beel – Overview

  1. Deepor Beel also spelt as Dipor Bil is a permanent freshwater lake, in a former channel of the Brahmaputra River, to the south of the main river.
  2. It is an open lake basin connected with a set of inflow and outflow channels. 
  3. Beel means wetland or large aquatic body in Assamese.
  4. Deepor Beel has both biological and environmental importance.
  5. Considered as one of the largest beels and important riverine wetlands in the Brahmaputra valley of Lower Assam.
  6. It is categorised as a representative of the wetland type under the Burma monsoon forest biogeographic region.
  7. Deepor Beel is an important bird sanctuary inhabiting many migrant species.

Status of Conservation of Deepor Beel 

  1. The Ramsar convention has designated Deepor Beel a Ramsar site in 2002 to undertake conservation measures on the basis of its biological and environmental importance for sustaining a range of aquatic life forms besides 219 species of birds.
  2. Following the Right to Information RTI petition, the National Green Tribunal – NGT directed the Assam government to declare the area around Deepor Beel an Eco Sensitive Zone in order to address the growing conservation threats to it.
  3. Due to the richness of avian fauna it enjoys, it has been selected as one of the Important Bird Area (IBA) sites by Birdlife International.
  4. 4.14 sq km of the total area of Deepor Beel was declared as a Bird Sanctuary by the Assam Government in 1989. Go through the List of Bird Sanctuaries in India on the given link. 

Major Concerns Associated with Deepor Beel

  1. According to hydrological experts, the area of the wetland was about 6,000 hectares in the late 1980s. Read in detail about wetland conservation and management rules on the given link. 
  2. Satellite imagery has revealed that its area has shrunk by at least 35%. Now the Deepor Beel officially has an area of 4,014 hectares or 15.5 square miles.

Reason for Shrinkage of Deepor Beel

  1. The wetland is in a precarious state because it is losing connectivity with small rivers like Kalmoni, Khonajan and Basistha.
  2. Dumping of municipal waste on the edge of the wetland at Boragaon.
  3. The unplanned urbanisation, city development and expansion around Deepor Beel has reduced the original water spread area. If the existing landscape is further altered, it could trigger flash floods in the area. 
  4. Encroachment upon natural channels through Guwahati and from the surrounding hills.
  5. Threats to the ecosystem of Deepor Beel are due to land reclamation, fragmentation of hydrological regime, species invasion, including alien species, siltation, pollution, unregulated recreation and tourism, overharvesting of resources and climate change.

What is Community Fishing?

Fishing done in groups of hundreds of people is known as Community fishing. It is a unique feature in the state of Assam. Freshwater fish is a vital protein and source of income for people of Assamese communities; the health of these people is stated to be directly dependent on the health of this wetland ecosystem. 

Community Fishing is illegal under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. It causes irreparable as well as irretrievable damage to the ecosystem. Hence, the order to prohibit community fishing was necessary.

Assam Government Order Detail

  • The prohibition order under Section 144 of the Code Of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1973, effective from 1st to 31st January 2021, underlined the possibility of community fishing around the mid-January Magh or Bhogali Bihu.
  • People from the villages adjoining and around the Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary venture out to organise community fishing.

Deepor Beel – Flora, Fauna & Hydrology

Fauna of Deepor Beel – 

  1. In addition to a huge number of residential birds, Deepor Beel provides shelter to a large number of migratory birds each year like Siberian cranes.
  2. During winter, it witnesses some of the large congregations of aquatic birds. It is considered one of the staging sites for migratory birds in India.
  3. Some unique migratory bird species that can be spotted here are the white-eyed pochard, the greylag goose, Baer’s pochard and the gadwall, a dabbling duck.
  4. Approximately, 50 fish species and aquatic resources provide livelihood support to about 1,200 households residing in about 12 villages on the fringes of the wetland.
  5. A rich variety of other aquatic species comprises 20 amphibians, 18 snakes, 12 lizards, and 6 turtle and tortoise species are listed.
  6. Many wild Asiatic elephants from the Rani and Garbhanga Reserve Forests in Kamrup East Division can be seen. 
  7. Some endangered species, like Lesser Adjutant Stork, Spot-billed Pelican, Baer’s Pochard, Greater Adjutant Stork, White Bellied Eagle, etc that are included in IUCN Red List, are also seen here.

Flora of Deepor Beel – 

  1. A large part of the beel during summers is covered by aquatic vegetation, like water hyacinth, aquatic grasses, water lilies, etc.
  2. Dominant tree species in the nearby deciduous forests include Teak, Banyan tree, Silk Cotton Tree, etc.
  3. The dominant aquatic plants include Water Hyacinth, Water Lettuce, Duckweed, Tape Grass, Hydrilla, Water Bindweed, Red Water Lily, etc.

Hydrology of Deepor Beel – 

  1. The Kalmani and Basistha rivers along with local monsoon runoff are the main source of water to the lake. 
  2. It is the only major and natural storm-water reservoir basin for Guwahati.
  3. The tropical monsoon climate prolongs from May to September when it is humid. 

Deepor Beel is an important topic for UPSC Syllabus, candidates with the available information in the article will be able to prepare for upcoming exams conveniently.

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