Guwahati: Every pond has its ecosystem, but the historical ponds have their unique identity. Thirty-seven species of birds, five species of reptiles, and one species of amphibian have been recorded from 37 historical ponds in the Darrang district of Assam.
Three species on the IUCN endangered list were also recorded from the ponds.
The study recorded thirty-seven historical ponds in the Darrang district with the help of modern technology. The historical ponds were identified based on the historical aspects (ponds excavated during the king dynasty) and myths. Among the thirty-seven ponds, the Lakhimpur pond is one of the largest, while the Kina pond is the smallest.
The study was carried out by Jyotish Ranjan Deka of Wildlife Institute of India, Pranjit Kumar Sarma and Moni Kangkan Bordoloi of Mangaldai College.
Darrang district has the highest number of ponds in the state. Though determining a historical pond wasn’t a very difficult task, some historical ponds were barely known by any. Researchers involved in the study say they attempted to use the historical GIS concerning their socio-economic and ecological perspective. “Our main objective is to identify the historical ponds and their distribution mapping. Secondly, to access the cultural and socio-economic values of the ponds. Finally, it assesses the ecological relevance of the historical ponds in the Darrang district” the study says” they say.
The three historical ponds now on the verge of extinction are Barhampur, Kamalakunwari, and Samaleswari.
The historical ponds are home to aquatic species, avifaunal species, and reptiles. The survey found Greater Adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius), an endangered bird rarely seen in the pond ecosystems as their population is decreasing, in Bali Pond, Garaimari Pond, and Kamalakuwari Pond. Like Adjutant, there are two reptiles including Assam roofed turtle (P. sylhetensis) and Malayan Box Turtle (C. amboinensis) which are on the endangered list by IUCN found in Gowalapara pond and Pota Pond respectively. According to the local people, there is a presence of a fishing cat, jungle cat, and common fox in and around the ponds. However, during the survey, they did not record any: either direct or indirect.
Very rare observations were recorded in terms of Grey-headed Fish Eagle (Icthyophaga ichthyaetus), Grey-headed Lapwing (Vanellu scinereus), and River tern (Sterna aurantia). In addition, reptiles, including the Common Indian monitor (Varanus bengalensis), and Water monitor lizard (Varanusn Salvator) were commonly found in every pond.
The historical ponds have great significance in the cultural life of the people. Although all the ponds are primarily dug for the source of drinking water to the people, some also fulfil water requirements in the agricultural field. On the other hand, ponds have been significantly used for fish farming in the Darrang district. Freshwater fish farming plays an important role in the livelihoods of rural people of the district.
Lakhimpur pond can be considered as one of the ideal fish production ponds in the district. It produces more the one-ton fish annually, with species like Chitol, Rohu, Kurhi, Mirika, Sal, Sol, and Bahu being common. Besides fish farming, there is another source to adopt the livelihood opportunity of the local people that is the tourism industry. The place of interest to tourists and a place of special interest to local people can help grow the local economy.
The study finds that due to encroachment, pollution, other developmental activities, and lack of necessary care and consciousness of the people for the ancient treasures, many of the historical ponds have been lost, and many of them are on the verge of extinction.
“Negligence of local people and government authorities is leading to the disappearance of ponds. In addition, many historical ponds are now on the verge of disappearing, and this situation demands immediate attention as this may lead to massive loss of aquatic biodiversity. The tortoise in Suri and Paskiya ponds are on the verge of extinction due to the illegal extraction of meat by local communities. Unfortunately, the ponds like Barhampur and Samelswari had already lost many such precious aquatic fauna and are now on the verge of extinction,” the study reveals.
Jyotish Ranjan Deka, Research Fellow, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun told EastMojo: “We suggest to the government to take initiative to save the historical ponds and create potential tourism sectors that would enrich the social and cultural values in future for this region. Various institutions of the district need to take an initiative to organize a general awareness drive on the conservation of ponds and their habitat for wild species.”
Pranjit Kumar Sarma of Mangaldai College told EastMojo the study is baseline information of threatened historical ponds and their ecological relevance for management planning.
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