Assam must save shrinking wetlands

The pioneer , Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Correspondent : Monalisa Gogoi
Despite the noise that the State Government routinely makes about its efforts to development tourism in Assam, it is obvious there is much that needs to be done before the industry gains any recognition. Noted naturalist and director of the Mumbai Natural History Society Asad R Rahmani pointed out that that 43 of the 465 sites in India that are natural breeding grounds for a wide variety of birds are in Assam. Here in connection with the release of a book called Important Bird Areas in India, Rahmani commented, however, that while the State had the distinction of being the chosen spot for so many bird varieties, it lacked even the basic infrastructure that bird watchers require. And nor had the sites been publicised, he said.

Caught off guard, State Tourism Minister Misbaul Islam Laskar, who formally released the book, only said that the government would do its best to develop other tourist spots in Assam to ease the pressure on Kaziranga. The lack of a concerted effort to develop tourism and rapid deforestation has led to shrinking wetlands and animal habitats in the state.

Not to mention a lack of awareness among those in charge: Over a decade ago, Deepor Beel, a wetland just outside Guwahati, managed to survive only after the students of the Assam Engineering College made it their business to take on the government on the issue. The wetland went on to be declared a Ramsar Site soon after. In more recent times there have been reports of thousands of birds losing their lives because of a powerline that runs through Kaziranga. The birds would drop dead after using the powerline as a perch.

As for animals, while Kaziranga, that will soon be a 100 years old, is a success story with poaching of rhinos in the sanctuary having dropped to nil, poachers hardly a month ago killed two rhinos at the Pobitora sanctuary not too far from Guwahati and made off with the horns of the animals.

SOURCE : The Pioneer, Tuesday, December 21, 2004

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