GMC Dumping Ground - A Threat to Deepor Beel
GUWAHATI: Deepor Beel is home to many endangered species of birds and water body species. But, continuous exposure to water body pollutants and other harmful chemicals has now put the lives of many endangered species under threat.
The GMC dumping ground at Boragaon is playing an active role in polluting the environment in the adjacent areas and mainly the world of the amphibians of Deepor Beel. GMC has been using a remote area of Boragaon to dump waste including industrial, medical, household waste since 2004.
“The dumping ground is causing a problem for both humans and different amphibians in Deepor Beel. The waste comprises junks and waste of industries and medicals including syringes, heavy metals, plastics, aluminum cans etc. These wastes, in turn, come into contact with the water of the Beel contaminating it and thereby infecting a wide variety of underwater flora and fauna. The flora including the planktons and algae are food for fishes which, in turn, affect the fishes in a big way.
Fishes are again consumed by humans and birds. The different species of migratory birds which visit the Beel in large numbers feed on fishes and face the danger of getting infected. As a whole the total food chain is getting affected,” said Suresh Deka, Professor of Microbiology, Institute of Advanced Study in Science & Technology.
“Segregation plays a major role in maintaining the ecology of the surrounding environment of a dumping zone. The non bio-degradable waste could be burnt to use the heat to convert it into energy and the degradable items could be used to make fertilizers by using the process of vermicomposting. But due to lack of such processes, the entire area has now turned into a mountain of garbage,” he added.
Raising serious concern, Arundhati Devi, Associate Professor of Bio-Chemistry, said, “From a recent survey of the Beel we got to know that that the carcinogenic level in the water is over permissible mark caused by industrial waste mainly batteries. The toxic level is gradually increasing, destroying the vital flora and fauna underwater. Deepor Beel would no longer be a Ramsar site as migratory birds would cease to come here.”
It may be noted that the dumping ground was supposed to be shifted to Chandrapur area way back in November 2015, but till now no initiative has been witnessed on ground. The locals, fearing adverse effects, keep windows shut during the monsoon season as the foul smell continues to be a serious health threat.
Alternate livelihood and sustainable development for fishing community
Conservationists are of the view that alternate livelihood for the fishing community is another way for longer viability of the Depoor Beel.
“People beside Deepor Beel traditionally engage themselves in ‘Beel Mara’ festival a week before Magh Bihu. Local people catch fishes in huge quantity from the Beel during that period. Many are also of the opinion that the fish catching festival should be scrapped once for all to help migratory birds take the huge share. Moreover, the Beel serves its purpose of existence by providing the locals with abundance of fish. If someday, fishes start getting extinct from the Beel and the migratory birds stop coming, encroachment will erase Deepor Beel from the map,” a conservationist said.
“An attempt should be made to engage the fishing community in the tourism sector rather than fishing. These people have their own boats and Boat Safaris on the Beel can really boost tourism. The state government has a bigger role to play in this. Officials engaged in development of the Beel should talk to the communities residing locally. The government should have done more to boost tourism relating to Deepor Beel. There is not even a single hoarding or banner advertising the presence of a Ramsar site on the outskirts of the city,” conservationist Jayaditya Purkhayastha said.
A multi-stakeholder council is in the pipeline on the government’s side to restore and revive Deepor Beel. Representatives from different departments - Forest, GMC, GMDA, GDD, PCBA, Revenue and Tourism will constitute the council which would be personally supervised by the Chief Minister, a source in the Forest Department said.
“The Deepor Beel has become like a tank now with all sides closed. The outlets which earlier connected Bahini and Brahmaputra are being encroached upon. Fishes from Brahmaputra would come to Deepor Beel through these channels earlier as there was abundance of fish then. Now the fishes that are available in Deepor Beel cannot move out of the Beel. It is their permanent home now. Tourism and research and coordination with local communities are three ways that can save Deepor Beel,” added Purkhayastha.
Locals still happy with quality of fish
Despite rumours of Deepor Beel fish being infected with pollutants, locals negated the idea and revealed their love for the fish from the Beel.
“My father was engaged in fishing in this Beel before me. Fishing and selling is the only way of living that we know. It is nearly impossible for the government to stop us from fishing in the Beel.
In the ‘Beel Mara’ festival thousands of people engage in fishing. How many will government engage? 1000 men or 2000 to stop us from fishing,” fisherman and trader, Jugal Das laughed.
Das made it clear that fish from Deepor Beel is fit for consumption till now and no one has complained of anything.
“The media makes a ruckus of everything. My elders have been fishing at Deepor Beel since I was born and we are consuming these fishes till date,” a local said.
“We don’t fish towards the eastern side of the Beel as the GMC dumping ground comes in touch with the Beel that side. No fisherman goes there neither the migratory birds. For now we are fishing on the banks of the Beel. Forest officials don’t allow people to go further inside the Beel to fish in the current month,” a fisherman near Deepor Beel said.