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Urgent steps demanded to protect Sareswar Beel

By AF Ashiqure Rahman

GOLAKGANJ, Dec 31 � Wetlands are the transitional zone between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, where the water table usually at or near the surface of land is covered by shallow water. Wetlands are complex ecosystems often occupying the interface between land and water. They have also socio-economic and biological values to the human life. Wetlands support a large diversity of �biota� many of which are economically important to mankind and are the habitat of aquatic plants and animals, aquatic and migratory birds.

Sareswar beel under Gauripur LAC is one unique ecosystem of its kind not only in Dhubri district but the Assam as a whole. There are some revenue villages and five reserve forests surrounding the beel. Sareswar beel is playing an important role in maintaining the sewage system of the area as well as the district. How ever, the residents of the district as well as the authorities concerned are turning a blind eye towards it.

Growing human activities, encroachment of the beel and siltation from nearby forests due to deforestation and heavy deposit of aquatic weeds in the beel is posing a serious threat to it. This is why the condition of the beel as well as the reserve forest which has immense potential for the ecological development of Dhubri district is deteriorating fast. The Sareswar beel is situated in Parbatjhora subdivision and is just 5-6 km away form Gauripur town. It covers an area of 476 hectares. The Monglajhora reserve forest and five tribal villages are situated near the beel. The Gauripur-Dindinga PWD road runs along the western bank of the beel. The mighty Godadhar river flows along the south of the beel and the village Rupshi Pt-II, Gandhapara etc., are also situated on the southern side.

There are five revenue villages � Banyaguri Pt-I, Banyaguri Pt-II, Maltijhora, Ishwarpan and Kawhangi on the east bank of the beel. Again there are five reserve forests surrounding this beel which are Rupshi (area 123 hectares), Bamunijhara (area 354 hectares), Athrarocatta (966 hectares) and Lalkura (area 157 hectares). The beel has an importance in terms of �bio-diversity� to the area. According to The Hindu survey of the environment in 1998, it was included 'in the �Directory of Asian Wetland� and had declared �Sareswar beel� as internationally important site. Due to its unique ecosystem position and location, the beel is a suitable breeding ground of various fishes and water birds. During the flood season, fishes enter the beel and lay eggs. The beel has a link with river Godadhar by a narrow canal which is one of the main tributary of river Brahmaputra and as a result the beel has become one of the most important breeding ground for fishes. These also attract various kinds of local (aquatic) and migratory birds throughout the year. As per �Asian wetland survey� in the year 1994 the total number of birds found in this beel was 839 and the number of species was 35. In the year 1996 the total number birds was 10,087 in the beel and number of species was 40. The endangered species of birds like adjutant stork and large whistling teal are found in the beel.

As the water of the beel is not disturbed various kinds of aquatic plants such as Ipomea aquatica, Andropogon pistia, Azola etc., are found abundantly. It is difficult to identify all these aquatic plants without proper research and studies. But as like other areas of the ecosystem, Sareswar beel is also fast deteriorating due to human activities, who get them leased from authorities and catch fishes violating all prescribed norms. The nylon net which they use does not spare even the tiny fishes and they also disturb the habitat of both aquatic plants and animals. Again the beel gets shallow year after year by deposition of silts and due to illegal felling of nearby forests resulting in the removal of the top canopy of the forest. The aquatic weeds which are available in the beel are also disturbed.

Kulodhar Das, Director of Nature�s Friend, a leading NGO of Dhubri said that if activities like deforestation, siltation, commercial fishing encroachment etc., continue unchecked, then within a short span of time, the Sareswar beel will no more remain an attraction. The avian visitors from far-off areas will never return to the State. Apart from geomorphological importance of the beel as storage basin during floods, the socio-economic and biological values are extremely significant to the local people. The collection of vegetables, fodder, medicinal plant, fish, snails, frogs crabs etc., from this beel by the tribal people is done using traditional methods. The villagers of the area have a relationship with the nearby forest which is primitive in nature. Thus, it is necessary to take steps for ecosystem conservation and protection of Sareswar beel as well as declare it as a bird sanctuary.

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