Realignment of Rail Track Through Deepor Beel

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    Recently, the Assam government has proposed the realignment of a broad gauge railway line through the Deepor Beel.

     

    About

    • The Northeast Frontier Railway had faced resistance when the project was undertaken more than two decades ago
    • In 2019, locals and green activists had protested the Railways’ move to doubling the track.
    • Railway officials said the work on doubling the track was progressing except for a 16 km stretch through Deepor Beel, as the final decision on the realignment had been pending.

     

    Rationale Behind the Move

    • The issue of realignment of the railway track in view of the eco-sensitivity of the wetland figured in a meeting held to discuss issues relating to the beautification of Deepor Beel.
      • Beautification of the Deepor Beel will be taken up to attract tourists.
        •  Besides, the construction of a cycling track along the road is being contemplated by the authorities to woo more tourists in the coming days
    • Realignment was proposed because the railway line creates noise pollution and disturbs the migratory birds.
      • The wetland is also used by elephants as a major corridor.

    Deepor Beel

    • Deepor Beel (Beel means wetland or large aquatic body in Assamese) is located about 10 km Southwest of Guwahati.
    • It is a perennial freshwater lake known for its biological and environmental importance
      • It has both biological and environmental importance besides being the only major storm-water storage basin for Guwahati.
    • The wetland is also a bird sanctuary covering an area of 414 hectares, sheltering more than 200 species of birds, about 70 of them migratory birds.
    • It is considered one of the largest and important riverine wetlands in the Brahmaputra Valley of lower Assam, India.
    • It is an ‘Important Bird Area’ designated under the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands.
    • It is an open lake basin connected with a set of inflow and outflow channels.
    • It is categorised as a representative of the wetland type under the Burma Monsoon Forest biogeographic region.
    • It is considered one of the staging sites for migratory birds in India and some of the large congregations of aquatic birds in Assam during winter.
    • Conservation Status:
      • 4.14 sq km of the total area was declared as a Bird Sanctuary by the Assam Government in 1989.
      • It was designated a Ramsar site in 2002 for sustaining a range of aquatic life forms besides 219 species of birds.
        • A Ramsar Site is a wetland designated to be of international importance under the Convention on Wetlands, held at the Iranian city of Ramsar in February 1971.
      • 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.

    Wetlands

    • Wetlands are land areas, which are seasonally or permanently flooded with water.
    • The Ramsar Convention’s definition for wetlands includes “areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which, at low tides, does not exceed six meters”.
    • Fishponds, rice paddies, and saltpans are human-made wetlands.

     

    Wetlands in India

    • India has nearly 4.6% of its land as wetlands, covering an area of 15.26 million hectares and has 42 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites).
    • Wetlands are regulated under the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017.
    •  The 2010 version of the Rules provided for a Central Wetland Regulatory Authority but the 2017 Rules replaced it with state-level bodies and created a National Wetland Committee, which functions in an advisory role.
    • The newer regulations removed some items from the definition of “wetlands” including backwaters, lagoon, creeks, and estuaries

     

    About the Ramsar Convention:

    • The Ramsar Convention signed on February 2, 1971, is one of the oldest intergovernmental accords signed by member countries to preserve the ecological character of their wetlands of international importance.
    • Aim-To develop and maintain an international network of wetlands that are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits

     

    Source: TH