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National wetland status for Son Beel

Dec. 9: Son Beel, Assamís largest wetland, destroyed by rampant encroachment and pollution, has at last received the status of a national wetland, raising hopes of resuscitation.

The Union ministry of environment and forest granted the status to the oxbow lake that measures 3458.12 hectares.

Debashis Kar, a professor of ecology in Assam University who has been indefatigably crusading since 1975 for the preservation of this unique wet land in south Assam, said the status was much needed.

He said the Centre would soon send a delegation of bio-scientists for an inspection of Assamís largest wetland to help draw up an action plan for the financial grant.

This is the second waterbody in Assam to be accorded the status of being a national wetland after Deepor Beel on the outskirts of Guwahati.

Son Beel is the confluence of two streams ó Singla and Kachua.

While Singla serves as an inlet of the water into the Son Beel, the outlet is called the Kachua stream.

But the inflow of water was impeded when a long embankment was built in the early fifties along Karimganj.

The beelís ďdegradationĒ began, according to Kar, when migrants from then East Pakistan began settling on its banks after Partition.

Over a lakh people, mostly fishermen from Patni, Namashudra and Kaibartas still live near the lake.

Itís not surprising given the fact that the beelís waters are full of rui (carp), katla, mrigel, puti, maka and chela baiya.

The pollution, too, has made the lake an unsuitable haunt for barheaded goose, adjutant stork, lesser whistling teal, white-breasted water hen, spotted dove, purple heron and common swallow, which used to flock to the wetland for years.

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