Save the Wetlands of North Bengal

  • by: Judith B.
  • recipient: Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister, State Government of West Bengal

Bengal is a region of productive agricultural land and rich biodiversity, with its wildlife including fishing cats, leopards, tigers, the river terrapin, the Himalayan salamander, elephants and hundreds of different birds.  The survival of its wildlife and ecosystems, and in turn agriculture, depend on its natural wetlands. These wetlands, however, have been disappearing rapidly.

During the 1970s and 80s, a huge number of natural wetlands were filled in for development as people migrated from the newly independent Bangladesh. They still are disappearing and scientists predict that they will all be gone by 2030 unless action is taken.

The wetlands not only support an abundance of wild animals and plants, with the possibility for developing ecotourism, they also provide vital ecosystem services, including flood mitigation, carbon absorption and the filtering of pollutants. Letting the last ones go would be an ecological disaster.

Although laws exist to preserve wetland habitats, they are rarely enforced.

Tell the state government to take action immediately on this increasingly urgent issue.

We the undersigned ask that you prioritise the protection of North Bengal’s last remaining wetlands. They support an immense diversity of life while providing ecological services essential to the region’s people, including prevention of floods, pollutant filtration and carbon sequestration. With the effects of climate change becoming ever more evident, no government can afford to let natural flood defences be destroyed entirely. The immense biodiversity of the wetlands and associated habitats also provides opportunities for developing ecotourism, such as bird watching expeditions, which form a long-term and sustainable source of income for the area.

According to Dr Subir Sarkar from North Bengal University, if urgent action to protect the wetlands is not taken, they will all have gone within the next 20 years, which would be an ecological disaster. The enforcement of existing legislation and the introduction of new measures to preserve the wetlands are required now. Effective wetland protection is not something that can be relegated until a more convenient time.

It is crucial that the state government take action immediately to preserve one of the region’s primary natural resources, so providing a future for the people and wildlife of North Bengal.

Thank you for your attention.

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