IN379
Deepor Beel Bird Sanctuary


Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
Deepor Beel Bird Sanctuary, southwest of Guwahati city, is located in Kamrup (metropolitan) district, on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra river. The sanctuary is a permanent freshwater lake with abundant aquatic vegetation. Deepor is one of the largest of many such lakes or ‘beels’ in lower Assam. A Ramsar site, the Deepor beel covers an area of about 900 ha. At maximum flooding, it is c. 4 m deep, while during the dry season, the depth drops to about 1 m. The main sources of water of this lake are the Basistha and Kalamoni rivers, and local monsoon run-off between May and September. The Beel drains into the Brahmaputra river, located about 5 km away. About half of the Beel dries out during the winter and the exposed shores are converted into paddy fields. The southern side of the lake is contiguous with Rani Reserve Forest. The climate is humid and tropical monsoon, with a prolonged monsoon season from May to September, and a relatively cool, winter. A large variety of aquatic flora of tropical wetland are found in Deepor Beel and its adjoining areas. On one side, this IBA is surrounded by forest, with Terminalia belerica, Tectona grandis (plantation), Ficus bengalensis, and Bombax malabaricum as dominant tree species. The Giant Water Lily Euryale ferox is of considerable botanical and economic importance. Dominant aquatic plants include Eichhornia crassipes, Pistia stratiotes, Ottelia alismoides and Lemna minor. Most of the surrounding areas are under rice cultivation.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Around 150 species of birds have been recorded so far in and around the Sanctuary, including nine threatened species (A. U. Choudhury pers. comm. 2002). Barman et al. (1995) have studied the avifauna of this IBA. They found 62 species of waterbirds, including 16 species of Anatidae. Interestingly, they also mention 1,018 individuals of Baer’s Pochard Aythya baeri in their 1988- 89 survey, but subsequently the population declined to 250 in 1989- 90, 3 in 1990-91, 135 in 1991-92, and none in 1992-93. If the figure for 1988-89 is correct, it must be the largest known flock of this rare species ever reported from India. In the surrounding broadleaf forests, White-cheeked Hill-Partridge Arborophila atrogularis is seen, along with other forest birds. Deepor Beel harbours many species of migratory birds in winter as well as resident birds. But birds get disturbed from the end of December caused by heavy fishing for feasts of New Year and Assamese Magh Bihu in mid-January. Though Deepor beel is leased out every year and fishing is a regular activity (year-round), disturbance touches peak by the end of December as locals also start ‘community fishing’ during that period for feasts after harvests. Charaching of waterfowls occurs but it is not a major threat (K. Lahkar pers. comm. 2003). Oriental White-backed Gyps bengalensis and Long-billed G. indicus vultures are still seen, mainly in winter, near Deepor Beel. Other vultures found in the region, Eurasian Griffon Gyps fulvus and Himalayan Griffon G. himalayansis are also seen in nearby areas (K. Lahkar pers. comm. 2003) The Greater Adjutant Leptoptilos dubius, regularly seen in Guwahati city garbage dumps and near slaughter houses, is occasionally seen in Deepor Beel. However, its cousin, the Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, listed as Vulnerable (BirdLife International 2001) is much more common. Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca is also commonly seen in winter. A total number of 688 birds were counted on January 4th 1991 under the Asian Waterfowl Census (Choudhury 2000).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Despite Deepor Beel’s proximity to the sprawling Guwahati city and nearby settlements, the Asian Elephant Elephas maximus regularly visits the beel. In the nearby Rani RF and other forested areas, mammals such as Hoolock Gibbon Hylobates hoolock, Assamese Macaque Macaca assamensis, Rhesus Macaque Macaca mulatta, Capped Langur Trachypithecus pileatus, Slow Loris Nycticebus coucang, Leopard Panthera pardus, Jungle Cat Felis chaus, Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis, three species of Civets (Large Indian Viverra zibetha, Small Indian Viverricula indica and Palm Paguma larvata), Mongoose Herpestes sp., Sambar Cervus unicolor, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, Chinese Pangolin Manis pentadactyla have been recorded.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Siltation; Heavy fishing; Pollution from city effluents; Disturbance to birds; Trapping during winter; Railway line; Industrial pollution from the wool mill; Encroachment.

Surrounding areas of Deepor Beel are privately owned, except for the Rani Reserve Forest, which is state-owned. The Government of Assam declared 414 ha of the beel area as a Sanctuary. Shooting and bird trapping are prohibited by the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, but enforcement is lacking. Being close to a city of about two million human beings, biotic pressure is increasing. The railway line that passes through the southern edge of the Beel has damaged the ecosystem of the area. There is a constant threat to denotify the Sanctuary, although it may not be so easily done, due to strict guidelines formulated by the Supreme Court of India. The Beel is heavily infested by Water Hyacinth. Fishing is another major conservation issue, especially during the mass fishing season when a large number of fishermen descend on this Beel, create intolerable noise, and disturb the birds.

Acknowledgements
Key contributors: Anwaruddin Choudhury, Kulojyoti Lahkar and Prasanta Saikia.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Deepor Beel Bird Sanctuary. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 12/08/2022.