Assam Tribune, Haramohan Barman
BARPETA, Dec 14 – Though the wetlands in Barpeta district especially those situated in the eastern part of the far flung areas from the district headquarters are suffering from the negligence of the authorities concerned, winged visitors from across the globe have made them proud by their annual visit to these areas. Chilla, Hablakhowa, Salmara, Barkana and Kapla beels are not only famous for delicious indigenous fishes now a days but also for the destinations of several types of migratory birds during this season.
With vast scope of ornithological studies and making an important tourist destination in the State, the aquatic bodies in the locality boast of their rich heritages though within themselves. This area is very rich in aquatic flora and fauna and the migratory birds have been adding flame to its fame since time immemorial. Almost all the wetlands of the eastern part of the district have converted into a seasonal zoo by the flock of migratory birds.
Loons, pelican, swan, duck, and goose of several species along with the Siberian Crane throng the whole water level of these wetlands from dusk to dawn. Some even stay overnight in their makeshift nests amid the aquatic mucks. These wetlands are the natural habitat of stork, heron, flamingo, falcon crane and several species of ducks and eagles apart from those who migrate seasonally since time immemorial.
Though the migration of birds to these water bodies is a universal phenomen, the number of species and population of each one of them varies every year. There have been unprecedented number in all the beels of the locality this year. Screaming sounds and colourful feathers of several species of birds have made this area more attractive for visitors. Thick population of migratory birds in assimilation with their local counterparts have even made it difficult to differentiate the water bodies with that of adjacent grasslands.
The reason behind the large scale assembly of birds in this area is not far to seek. These areas are very much rich in biodiversity and provides sufficient food and safe shelter to birds. Fish and other insects upon which these birds live are abundant in this area and the high rising trees in the neighbouring villages together with the thick grasslands provides necessary shelter to them.
Kapla is the biggest among the beels of Barpeta district and highest number of migratory birds also visit it during this season of the year. The adjacent beels of Kapla such as Silla, Salmara, Barkana, and Hablakhowa are also not lagging behind in accommodating their seasonal guests.
But it is a matter of regret that as the number of migratory birds increase the hunters also become active. With sunset, some people from the neighbouring areas get ready with various nets, traps, hooks or other sharp weapons suitable for catching birds. For some it is a necessity and for some others it is a luxury. The birds that the poachers traps fetch good price in the market due to the delicacy of their flesh. Hence the poachers are supposed to earn a considerable amount of money.
It is also learned that a few species of birds are exported and the demand is very high in the international market. So they insist upon trapping the birds unharmed.
Not that all the poachers are outsiders but according to some local people some lessee or their employees are also engaged in this inhuman and illegal activity. The Forest department, the Assam Fisheries Development Corporation (AFDC) or the local police are totally indifferent towards such activities. Even it is alleged that police and and the Forest deparment take no action on the plea that it is not a notified Forest area. People willing to lodge complaints are also helpless as there is no office of the Forest department and police often refuses to accept complaint saying that it is the duty of the Forest deparment.
Kapla beel along with its surrounding areas has every possibility of becoming an attraction for tourists if it is maintained well. But the AFDC under which administrative jurisdiction the beel falls have laid it totally unattended for long. Local people feel that it can be created as an ornithological park with least expense. The Forest and Tourism departments should look into this aspect. It was alleged by the people that there is no activity to develop and protect these wetlands for a long time. The least sporadic schemes undertaken are aimed at the enriching the coffers of the officers and the vested politicians.
It is high time that the government should come forward with specific plans to save the important water bodies so that the local birds along with the visiting guests which are decreasing year after year don’t face extinction.