Assam’s Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary breathes easy after eco-sensitive zone notification

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

​​The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has notified the Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam as an Eco-sensitive zone(ESZ).

About Deepor Beel:
  1. Deepor Beel is a perennial freshwater lake located 10 km south-west of Guwahati city, Assam.
  2. Ramsar Site: Deepor Beel was designated a Ramsar site in 2002. It is the only Ramsar site in Assam.
  3. IBA: It is also an important bird sanctuary(IBA) habituating many migrant species.
  4. Significance: Deepor Beel constitutes a unique habitat for aquatic flora and avian fauna. About 150 species of birds have been recorded in the sanctuary, out of which two are critically endangered, one endangered, five vulnerable and four near-threatened.
  5. Moreover, Elephants regularly visit the wetland from adjoining Rani and Garbhanga Reserve Forest. Further, the wetland is an integral part of the elephant habitat.

Why was Deepor Beel Wetland declared as an Eco-Sensitive zone?

The Deepor Beel Wetland has for declared as an  Eco-Sensitive zone due to the following threats it is facing: 

  1. Garbage Dump: There is a Boragaon garbage dumping site close to Deepor Beel wetland. Deepor Beel has long been used as a sponge for Guwahati’s sewage via a couple of streams. The wetland has also suffered from seepage of toxins from a garbage dump.
  2. Encroachment from human habitation: Deepor Beel is adjacent to Guwahati city. Hence, the sanctuary is facing immense biotic pressure by way of human settlements and ever-increasing development activities.
  3. Railway track along the southern boundary of the wetland, which is set to be doubled and electrified.

What are the issues pointed out by experts and locals?

For ESZ, the polluting units should not to be located within the minimum distance of 5 km from the boundary of the sanctuary. But in Deepor Beel it is not. So, they were of the opinion that, the ESZ will serve no purpose.

Eco-sensitive zone(ESZ):
  • It is an area notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. 
  • Notifications declaring areas as ESZ are issued under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986. 
  • The main aim behind ESZs is to regulate certain activities, to minimise the negative impacts of such activities on the fragile ecosystem surrounding the protected areas.
  • Activities prohibited in the eco-sensitive zone are hydroelectric projects, brick kilns, commercial use of firewood, discharge of untreated effluents in natural water bodies or land areas among others.
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