Satajan Wetland in North Lakhimpur

North Lakhimpur will host the first ever Satajan Bird Festival on the banks of the Ranganadi to promote the Satajan wetland.

Satajan Wetland is a unique habitat of aquatic flora and fauna with as many as 34 species of local birds and 13 species of migratory birds arriving here every winter.

The wetland is also a breeding ground for the whistling teal, white-breasted water hen and bronze winged jacana.

It is also the nesting ground for the Indian purple moorhen and coots and the visiting site of the endangered white-eyed Pochard, a migratory bird from the Pacific Siberia.

The Lakhimpur district administration in association with the Lakhimpur forest division and NGOs Green Heritage, Xeujia Lakhimpur Amar Xopun, Assam Wildlife Rescue and Research Organisation (AWRRO) has organized the festival to create awareness on the need to conserve the wetland and the birds and animals inhabiting it.

Also read: Documentary on wetlands of Manipur released

The festival will comprise a bird-watching programme, art competition, cycling rally, photography exhibition and popular talk on bird and wetland conservation.

Many people and organizations have been trying to encroach the Satajan Wetland to convert it into a commercial fishery and amusement park during the past few years.

They claimed that the land belonged to various land patta owners as it was a paddy field prior to the massive earthquake of 1950 which created the wetland.

Green Heritage, an NGO had campaigned for the preservation of the wetland and its promotion to a reserved bird sanctuary with active support from the local villagers.

The Gauhati High Court in 2010 ordered the authorities concerned to take a decision with regard to the constitution of bird sanctuary or community reserve in the water body.

Moreover, the construction of a road project close to the wetland is harming the environment of the wetland.

The road that is being constructed under the Assam Darshan scheme violates the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972.

The noise of earthmovers and other heavy machinery used in the construction process together with frequent movements of vehicles have considerably affected the arrival of migratory birds to the wetland this winter.

The road project, executed by the Lakhimpur public works department, also ignored the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017.

The ministry of environment, forests and climate change also issued guidelines to support state governments in the implementation of the rules for conservation and management of wetlands in the country.

The guidelines clarified that all wetlands, irrespective of their location, size, ownership, biodiversity, or ecosystem services values, can be notified under the Wetlands Rules 2017.

Lakhimpur deputy commissioner Jeevan B asked the Lakhimpur APWD to stop the road construction on the agriculture bund and divert it 15 meters away from Satajan wetland towards the Ranganadi river.

He also suggested for plantation of trees in the area between the road and the agriculture bund.

The district administration has installed barricade pillars on the road close to the wetland preventing the movement of vehicles.

However, a few locals demanded the removal of the pillars and threatened to scare away the birds using firecrackers.

They also harassed members of Green Heritage, who have been engaged in preventing further encroachment of the wetland.

Farhana Ahmed

Farhana Ahmed is Northeast Now Correspondent in North Lakhimpur. She can be reached at: farhana.ahmed777@gmail.com