MoEF scientist visits dolphin site after C-NES intervention with Jairam Ramesh: views dolphin safety, raps proposed distillery

Dr. Katiyar monitoring the plant area

Dr. Katiyar monitoring the plant area

Dr. Katiyar at the project site

Dr. Katiyar at the project site

Dora beel adjacent to the plant area

Dora beel adjacent to the plant area

The connecting channel between Dora Beel and Kulsi

The connecting channel between Dora Beel and Kulsi

Dr. S.C. Katiyar, senior scientist from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, north east regional office, Shillong visited Kukurmara on 30 September 2010, to prepare a report on the proposed distillery unit- “N.V. Distilleries and Breweries Ltd” at Rampur village, near the Kulsi river at Kukurmara.

Dr. Katiyar’s visit follows a meeting between Sanjoy Hazarika, Managing Trustee, C-NES, and Mr. Jairam Ramesh, Union Minister of State (Independent charge) for Environment and Forests, in New Delhi last month where Mr. Hazarika stressed the need to ensure full protection to the dolphins –– and to people’s livelihoods. The dolphin, locally known as the xihu, was declared Assam’s state Aquatic Animal in 2008, a status that C-NES lobbied for; it is now also the National Aquatic Animal.

Mr. Jairam Ramesh assured Mr. Hazarika that he would pursue the issue and take firm action, whenever warranted.

During his visit, Dr. Katiyar said that the future of the dolphins and issue of ground water would be major concerns with regard to the development of the plant. Though the unit has obtained the mandatory NOC from the State Pollution Control Board of Assam, there has been growing opposition to the unit from environmentally conscious residents who are supported by eminent scholars, environmentalists and NGOs.

Since the proposed plant is close to the Kulsi, a favorite abode of the river dolphins, scientists say that the discharge of industrial effluents could have an impact on the dolphins located in the area. According to a 2008 census, about 268 dolphins survive in the Brahmaputra river system. It will also increase problems of an already rapidly dwindling ground water level in the area.

Dr. Katiyar visited Rampur village and observed the site of the proposed plant including the Dora beel (wetland) adjoining the area. He was accompanied by Bhaskar Saud from C-NES who has been closely associated with C-NES’ dolphin conservation project. At Kulsi, the scientist observed the channel linking Dora beel with the Kulsi . He was delighted to watch dolphins at play during a boat visit to the confluence of the Kulsi and Dora .

A location in Kukurmara in Kamrup district, about 40 kms west of Guwahati, has been developed as an eco-tourism centre by C-NES; our main local partner is Debojit Chowdhury, who has designed a programme in which tourists are offered an experience that combines River Dolphin viewing on the Kulsi, a tributary of the Brahmaputra, with local cuisine, culture and hospitality.

The conservation of the highly endangered dolphin, through participatory efforts and weaning poachers away from hunting, has been a unique success story of a C-NES project supported by the Forde Foundation during 2006-2009.

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