Under pressure for settling the landless, mostly alleged Bangladeshis, on protected areas, the Assam government has laid out a plan to conserve 3,513 wetlands in the State.
The plan has been dovetailed with a Google-aided satellite tracking programme involving migratory birds for studying the connection between wetlands and avian influenza.
Placing a statement in the 126-member Assembly on Tuesday, Assam Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain scotched allegations that protected areas across the State were falling victims to a “populist project” to rehabilitate landless and BPL people in low-lying wetlands and river sandbars (known as chars in Assamese).
From January 2005 to November 1 this year, 11,666 people have been given settlement in 19 of Assam’s 27 districts.
“There is no encroachment in the 410 hectare Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary,” Hussain said, adding 15 more wetlands are proposed for inclusion in the National Wetland Conservation Programme.
Deepor Beel, on the western edge of this State capital, is a Ramsar Site. It was declared a wildlife sanctuary in February this year. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and Bombay Natural History Society had chosen Deepor Beel and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary for satellite tracking of migratory birds.
Pobitora, some 60 km east of Guwahati, is often referred to as the ‘showroom’ of Kaziranga, sited further east. Measuring 39 sq km, it has the highest concentration of one-horned rhinos in the world.
“It is more or less established bird flu does not ride migratory birds, but 20 species of such species in Deepor Beel and Pobitora have been targeted for satellite tracking,” said ornithologist Parimal Bhattacharjee. “These birds including pintail, mallard duck, pochard, ruddy shellduck, shoveller and gargeni have been fitted with PTT transmitters for tracking via Google.”
A recent survey of wetlands has revealed Assam has 3,513 wetlands covering a total area of 101,231.6 hectares. Of these, 3,388 wetlands are natural with a total area of 98,819.6 hectares.