The largest and most important wetland in the Brahmaputra Valley in lower Assam is Deepor Beel. The word 'beel' means pond in Assamese. Situated to the south-west of the city of Guwahati, it is a former channel of the river Brahmaputra and is a haven for the region's rich diversity of flora and fauna.
Deepor Beel was designated a Ramsar site in November 2002. The Ramsar convention is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands. This is to stem the encroachment and loss of wetlands now and in future; recognizing the fundamental ecological functions of wetlands and their economic, cultural, scientific, and recreational value. The Convention is named after a town in Iran.
Around this time the most eye-catching blooms on the fringes of beels in Assam are these Spider flowers. The pink varieties grow in abundance at Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, best known for its rhino population. I had taken these two photos back in January. A little digression to show the difference in colour.
The Spider flowers at Deepor Beel are of the white/purple variety.
A long stretch of more Spider flowers. Deepor Beel has many species of aquatic grasses, water lilies and water-hyacinth. The WWF site has a detailed list of aquatic plants found in the area.
219 bird species has been recorded here of which 70 species are waterfowl. There are 50 species of fish as well as amphibians, lizards, snakes, turtle and tortoise species. Some of the birds seen here are grey-headed lapwing, ruddy shelduck, red-crested pochard, lesser and greater adjutant stork, black-necked stork, large whistling teal, cormorants, spot-billed pelican and aeriel predators. Winter is the best time for bird-watching as migratory birds come here in thousands.
Tough-looking grass on the banks.
A blurry picture of birds.
Wetlands are one of the world's most threatened ecosystems. More than half have been destroyed. Some have disappeared due to natural causes but many have been destroyed by humans. Encroachment and pollution, industries near the banks, killing of birds and other animals are major setbacks. Once the total area of Deepor Beel was 41 kms. but now it is only 4.14 sq. kms. But it is heartening to note that local green organisations are coming forward to help save Deepor Beel so that it will remain a haven for all the life that it supports. And for nature lovers as well.
Glory be to God for dappled things- For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings; Landscape plotted and pieced--fold, fallow, and plough; And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim. All things counter, original, spare, strange; Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise him. Gerard Manley Hopkins
The first flowering shrub I planted on our land
Every flower is a soul blooming in Nature.-Gerard De Nerval
Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself? -Henry David Thoreau