Son Beel Wetland of Assam to be developed as Ecotourism destination
By Bureau Report
In a recent unprecedented welcome development, Deputy Commissioner Karimganj submitted a project proposal for sanctioning Rs. 60 Crore only for “Development of Son Beel as a Tourist Destination” and requisite concept document for funding under the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (MDoNER), GoI. In a letter to the secretary, Transformation and Development Department, Government of Assam, dated 11 April 2022, it was mentioned that the concept document considers convergence from the forest, soil conservation, social forestry, fishery, agriculture, and irrigation, water resources and tourism sector.
However, the concept document for the project proposal discloses that this is an escalated cost allocation of a pipeline project pending since 2009.
Timing of the Proposal:
During the winter session of the Parliament the previous year, while replying to Karimganj’s MP Kripanath Mallah’s query on the development of Son Beel Minister of State, MoEFCC denied asking funds from the Government of Assam for conservation, restoration, rejuvenation and management of Son Beel under National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystem (NPCA). After four months of the Minister’s written reply, DC Karimganj has reviewed the pending project proposal since 2009 and sent an escalated project proposal amounting to Rs. 60 Crore under MDoNER.
Mesmerizing Son Beel:
Son Beel (Shon Beel) is situated in Karimganj, Assam, India and is the largest wetland in Assam. It offers a highly productive soil for rice cultivation during the lean season. It holds an enormous amount of water that overflows during the rainy season because of the lower depth in the beel. The Beel water confluence to Kushiara River and it drains into Bangladesh through the Kakra River, making Son Beel a significant waterway. The inlet and outlet of Son Beel are River Shingla, which has its origin in Manipur. The Beel occupies a diversity of fish species, including Bhujia fish’s specialty.
Ecosystem Services and Benefit of Son Beel:
Son Beel offers multiple ecosystem services to the locals residing near the wetland regime. These services are categorized as; provisioning services, regulating services, cultural services, and supporting services. Those benefits and products obtained from wetlands as a prior life and livelihood support such as freshwater, food, fibre, fuel, genetic resources, biochemical, natural medicines and pharmaceuticals are part of provisioning services. Regulating services include those benefits obtained from the regulation of the ecosystem services, likewise Water regulation, Erosion regulation, Water purification, Waste regulation, and Climate and natural hazards regulation (e.g., Floods, Storms and droughts). Cultural services include non-material benefits people obtain from wetlands through spiritual enrichment. Cognitive development, reflection, recreation and aesthetic experiences, cultural diversity, knowledge systems, educational values, social relations, sense of place, cultural heritage and ecotourism. Supporting services include those necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services. The beneficial impacts of such ecosystem services are indirect, likewise primary production, water cycling and nutrient cycling, etc.
Hamburg University Germany has published a research paper titled ‘Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Benefits of Son Beel Wetland in Assam, India’ in its annual conference Climate 2020 held in March 2020 this year. The study estimated Son Beel’s monetary value from a minimum of $88/Hectare/Year to a maximum of $29,716/Hectare/Year. Researchers reiterate that Son Beel has prominent potential to be designated as a Ramsar Site of ‘Wetlands of International Importance.
Further, both researchers have studied the wetlands of Son Beel and Chandubi and published Elsevier book chapters entitled ‘Impact of climate change on wetlands, concerning Son Beel, the largest wetland of North East, India” in the year 2021, on Chandubi wetland.
Recognizing Economic Values of Wetland Ecosystem Services: A Study of Emerging Role of Monetary Evaluation of Chandubi Ecosystem and Biodiversity by Wiley international in 2021, respectively.
Two researchers, Deepak Kumar and Moharana Choudhury, welcome this move and are very happy to see this positive development for wetland. Deepak Kumar from United Nations Development Programme states that the State Government is aware of our research paper. This particular work on the economic valuation of Son Beel has primarily been covered by various media generating mass awareness to demand the Ramsar tag for Son Beel.
Environmentalist and Researcher Moharana Choudhury from Guwahati, Assam says that our paper has brought a new dimension and highlighted the importance of wetland research and its global significance in sustainable ecosystems, ecotourism, livelihood generation and Disaster Risk Reduction prospective in the state and region.