Deepor Beel is a permanent, freshwater lake, in a former channel of the Brahmaputra river, to the south of the main river south-west of Guwahati city. It is a large natural wetland having great biological and environmental importance besides being the only major storm water storage basin for the Guwahati city. The beel is endowed with rich floral and faunal diversity. In addition to huge congregation of residential water birds, the Deepor ecosystem harbours large number of migratory waterfowl each year. Deepor beel has been designated as a Ramsar Site in November 2002.
Justification for Designation as Ramsar Site
Deepor Beel is one of the largest and most important beels in the Brahmaputra valley of lower Assam and is a representative wetland type found within the biogeographic province, 'Burma Monsoon Forest'.
The lake supports threatened species of birds like spotbilled pelican, lesser adjutant stork, greater adjutant stork, blacknecked stork, and large whistling teal.
The lake is one of the staging grounds on the migratory flyways for several species. Some of the largest congregations of aquatic birds in Assam can be seen here, particularly in winter.
It supports 50 fish species belonging to 19 families. The diversity and concentration of indigenous freshwater fish species is very high. Natural breeding of some of these species takes place within the beel itself.
Phytoplankton is one of the major components of the lowest level of the producers in the Deepor beel ecosystem. The dominant species are represented by Oscilatoria sp and Microcystis sp. A total of 18 genera of phytoplankton are reported only from the core area of the Deepor beel ecosystem.
The dominant aquatic plants include Eichhornia crassipes, Pistia stratiotes, Ottelia alismoides, Lemna minor, Potamogeton crispus, Vallisneria spiralis, Hydrilla verticillata, Ipomoea reptans, Azolla pinnata, Spirodela polyrhiza, Eleocharis plantaginea, Nymphaea albea, N.rubra and Sagittaria sagittifolia. The giant water lily Euryale ferox also grows here. The lake shore vegetation includes Eupatorium adoratum, Achyranthes aspera, Cyperus esculoentus, Phragmites karka, Vitex trifolia, Accium basilium, Saccharum spontaneum and Imperata arundinacea. Dominant tree species in the nearby deciduous forests include Tectona grandis, Ficus bengalensis and Bombax malabaricum.
Altogether 21 genera of zooplanktons were identified in Deepor beel, the dominant species were from the groups of Cladoceran, Copepod, Rotifers and Protozoans, such as, Paramecium sp . The important benthic fauna in the Deepor beel ecosystem includes Tubifex sp., Nais sp., Pheritima sp., Dero sp., Limnodrillus sp., Chironomus sp., Bellemya sp., Bortia sp., Chaoborous sp., Culicoids sp., Dragon flylarvae, Cybister larvae, Pila globosa, Unio sp., etc. Wild Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) still visit the beel despite its proximity to Guwahati. Preliminary surveys have revealed the presence of at least 20 amphibian, 12 lizards, 18 snakes and 6 turtle and tortoise species in Deepor beel. Deepor beel harbours a large number of terrestrial and aquatic birds species, most of which are either endemic, threatened or endangered. Altogether 219 bird species have been recorded, of which 70 species are waterfowl.
Social & Cultural Values
Deepor beel supports an important fishery, providing a means of livelihood for a number of local families and is used for domestic water supply. Nymphaea nuts, flowers,etc., are harvested for sale in the local markets and these constitute valuable natural crops. The seeds of giant waterlily, annually leased by the government revenue department, are also another major revenue earning source after fish.
Local people traditionally utilise the beel to collect fodder for domestic cattle, natural food, such as, vegetables, flowers, aquatic seeds, fish, molluscs and other essential requirments. Poor people inhabiting the vicinity of the beel ecosystem, collect their required protein in the form of fish and other animal meats. The people of southern boundary commute to the city through the beel water by country boats.
The past two decades have seen a lot of transformation in the ecological and social character of Chilika. Natural and anthropogenic problems include:
Construction of railway line along the southern boundary of the Deepor beel;
Industrial development within the periphery of the beel;
Large scale encroachment within the Deepor beel area;
Allotting the government vacant land to private party by Government settlement department;
Brick making factory and soil cutting within the beel ecosystem;
Hunting, trapping and killing of wild birds and mammals within and in the adjoining areas of Deepor beel;
Unplanned fi shing practice without controlling mesh size and using water pump, etc.
The Government of Assam declared 414 ha of the beel area as a sanctuary (Deepor Beel Sanctuary). Shooting and bird-trapping are prohibited by law, but enforcement is poor. The area is patrolled by the fishery department. A comprehensive management plan is under preparation and there is a proposal to declare the whole beel area as a protected area.
The conservation steps have made over 500 sq km area weed - free. The catch of fish has also shown significant improvement. Due to better management practices and significant improvement in the ecological condition of the Chilika lake, it has been removed from the Montreux Record in November 2002