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Concern over move to hand over land to AR

By The Assam Tribune

GUWAHATI, Aug 3 -- Expressing grave concern over the move of the administration and the Government to hand over 465 bighas of land � including a wetland of critical importance for the local populace and the environment � to Assam Rifles, Early Birds, an environmental NGO, has urged the authorities to rescind the move at the earliest.

The wetland known as Dabaka beel is located near Azara in Kamrup district. It supports a rich biodiversity including fish and avifauna, besides being connected with the Kolomoni river. The nearby agricultural fields also receive much-needed replenishment from the wetland, while fishing has been a traditional occupation for many locals.

"It is a suicidal decision on the part of the State Government to allot the land to Assam Rifles, exposing its utter lack of sensitivity to the environment and the well-being of the local populace. Any undue interference with the wetland will trigger a series of calamitous impacts, including destruction of biodiversity, damage to agriculture, and loss of livelihood for thousands of people dependent on the wetland ecosystem,� Early Birds president Moloy Baruah said.

Baruah said that the ill-conceived move to destroy the wetland at a time when the Government was talking a lot about protecting wetlands smacked of double standards.

�Wetlands across the State are facing increasing anthropogenic and industrial pressures, which prompted the Government to adopt the Wetland Protection Act recently. But the Government�s actions betray an appalling lack of farsightedness and sensitivity,� he said.

Pointing out that the then Revenue Minister Dr Bhumidhar Barman had assured the State Assembly on December 12, 2006 that the Government was looking for an alternative plot for Assam Rifles in view of the strong public protest and the presence of the wetland in the acquired plot, Baruah said that the authorities must desist from destroying the Dabaka beel and find out an alternative site at the earliest.

The local people have been agitating against the government move since 2005 but failed to elicit any positive response from the authorities so far.

Demanding that the authorities immediately remove the posts erected for demarcating the plot to be handed over to Assam Rifles, Baruah called upon all concerned to unitedly resist the move.

�We extend our support to the people fighting to save the wetland, and will continue to resist the move at any cost,� Baruah asserted.

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