Deepor Beel: Assam's Ramsar Site

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 1, 2022, 13:15

Deepor Beel is one of the largest wetlands in Assam. This open lake basin and riverine wetland are situated 10KM southwest of the Guwahati city in lower Assam's Brahmaputra valley. The Beel has inflow and outflow channels. Previously, it was naturally linked to the Brahmaputra river through the Sola Beel and Pandu's swampy areas.

However, with the construction of a national highway, railway line, and residential properties, the Brahmaputra link has been disrupted. Deepor Beel is also Assam's only Ramsar site. Deepor Beel came in the news recently when the Kamrup (Metropolitan) district administration prohibited community fishing in the wetland.

Deepor Beel is a biologically and environmentally sensitive area. The nature of the wetland is strikingly similar to the Burma monsoon biogeographic region. The Beel is also an excellent, rich bird sanctuary hosting many migrant bird species.

Deepor Beel and Ramsar

Deepor Beel was declared a Ramsar site by the Ramsar Convention in 2002. The primary objective of declaring it a Ramsar site is to undertake conservation measures of this biologically and environmentally sensitive wetland, which sustains diverse aquatic life forms and 219 bird species. Also, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Assam government to declare Deepor Beel and the surrounding area an Eco-sensitive zone. Moreover, Birdlife International has declared Deepor Beel an Important Bird Area (IBA) because of its diverse avian fauna.

Deepor Beel - Major Concerns

If hydrological experts are believed, Deepor Beel's total area was about 6,000 hectares in the 1980s. However, satellite imagery has shown that Beel's area has reduced by about 35%. Presently, the wetland area is 15.5 square miles or 4,014 hectares.

Some of the reasons the area of Deepor Beel has shrunk are:

  • Shrinking connectivity with tiny rivers like Khonajan, Basistha, and Kalmoni.
  • Municipal waste dumping near the wetland's edge at Boragaon.
  • Unplanned real estate development and expansion of cities have reduced the original wetland catchment area. If the catchment area decreases further, flash floods cannot be ruled out.
  • Encroachment on natural channels in extended Guwahati and surrounding hills.

Deepor Beel and Community Fishing

Deepor Beel has traditionally been a hotspot of community fishing. Community fishing is usually done in large groups and is unique to Assam. Deepor Beel is a vital freshwater fish rich in protein and minerals. So, the health and sustenance of this wetland are crucial for thousands of people, directly and indirectly, dependent on the Beel.

According to the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, community fishing is completely illegal since it causes irreversible damage to the biological and environmental ecosystem.

Flora and Fauna of Deepor Beel

Deepor Beel is a hotspot for many residential and migratory birds. Some birds in the Deepor Beel bird sanctuary are also listed in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List. Besides these birds, the Beel is also home to fifty (50) different fish species and aquatic creatures like amphibians, snakes, lizards, turtles, and tortoises. Also, wild Asiatic elephants from the nearby Garbhanga and Rani reserve forests are frequently seen here.

Regarding the flora of Deepor Beel, one can find an abundant supply of aquatic vegetation like water lilies, aquatic grasses, Water Lettuce, Tape Grass, water hyacinth, Water Bindweed, etc. Also, tree species like Silk Cotton tree, Teak, Banyan tree, etc., are readily found in nearby deciduous forests.

Deepor Beel is not only a water body but also a part of the culture of Assam. As the only Ramsar site in the state, it gives the state a different identity. It is, therefore, imperative to protect this rich waterbody from encroachment and construction.

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FAQ on Deepor Beel

Q.1) What is Deepor Beel?

Deepor Beel is one of the largest wetlands in Assam. This open lake basin and riverine wetland are situated 10KM southwest of the Guwahati city in lower Assam's Brahmaputra valley.

Q.2) What is the area of Deepor Beel?

The area of the Deepor Beel is 15.5 square miles or 4,014 hectares.

Q.3) Is Deepor Beel a Ramsar site?

Deepor Beel was declared a Ramsar site by the Ramsar Convention in 2002.