GUWAHATI: Finally, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has come to the rescue of the pride of Guwahati.
It has directed the Assam government to declare “Deepor Beel”, including an adjacent sanctuary, as an eco-sensitive zone. An order in this regard was passed during a hearing of a petition filed by environmentalist Rohit Chowdhury on August 19.
The NGT said it had been fairly conceded that there are encroachments along the water body regarding which it had earlier passed specific orders prohibiting any further encroachment and to take steps for removal of the existing ones.
“It had also been directed that the water body should be made free from all the hydrophytes and at least get the core area restored to its pristine condition at the first instance. A report in this regard be also placed by the state in its affidavit,” the court directed.
Located on the city outskirts, Deepor Beel is a freshwater lake, protected under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, 1971. Its area has been for long-suffering from environmental degradation due to encroachment. Once spread over 4,000 hectares, it has now shrunk to 500 hectares. It is home to over 200 species of migratory birds.
Environmentalists have often alleged that wastes dumped on the wetland area have turned the lake’s water toxic. The Assam government claimed the dumping ground is half-a-kilometre away and that there is no scientific proof it is polluting the lake.
However, there is no denying the fact that the lake is bearing the brunt of adverse human activities such as filling of wetlands for habitation, cutting sides of wetlands, fishing, killing of migratory birds etc. The degradation of water quality, sedimentation in the lake’s surface and deforestation activities in and around the water body calls for its conservation.
The petitioner said he was not sure about the government’s sincerity on the issue.
“The government is bound to follow court orders but that always doesn’t happen. What the government will now do is something which remains to be seen,” Chowdhury said.
Stating that his major concern is about the dumping ground at the site, he insisted it be removed at the earliest.
“The dumping ground is dirtying the fresh water lake. The water is getting contaminated. Also, the sewage water is dumped there. Everything is dumped there,” he said.