Pala wetland in Mizoram- Ramsar site
Hillocks of lush semi-evergreen forest surround the Pala wetland in Mizoram Credit: Photo by David Khiangte

Guwahati: Hailing the government’s environmental protection and conservation efforts, Union Forest and Environment minister Bhupender Yadav on Tuesday said that five more Indian wetlands have got Ramsar recognition as wetlands of international importance, including Pala wetland of Mizoram.

“The emphasis PM Shri @narendramodi ji has put on environmental protection and conservation has led to a marked improvement in how India treats its wetlands. Delighted to inform that 5 more Indian wetlands have got Ramsar recognition as wetlands of international importance,” Environment minister Bhupender Yadav tweeted.

Pala wetland is located in Siaha district, Mizoram. The wetland is situated about 6 km from the nearest village called Phura, and falls under the Phura forest range of the Mara autonomous district council region. Spread across 1850 hectares, Pala is the largest natural wetland in the state of Mizoram.

“Although classified as a Wetland Reserve by the national authorities, the site is threatened by the construction of roads and railroads, hunting and collecting of land animals, illegal logging and wood harvesting. However, a management plan is being implemented to mitigate these threats,” the Ramsar website on Pala wetland says.

Pala wetland plays a crucial role in maintaining the hydrological regime of the area by being the perennial source of water for rivers and streamlets, on which seven villages are dependent for accruing their livelihoods.

The Pala wetland is revered and is deeply linked with the history of Mara people inhabiting the region. Photo by David Khiangte

The wetland has two small outlets, one named Tipo Didao, which converges with the small Pala river. This increases the size of the Pala river, making it the main and constant source of water supply for the two low-lying villages surrounding the wetland’s catchment area.

Pala wetland is intrinsically linked to the lives of the local communities. The local inhabitants (Mara people) revere Pala as it is deeply linked with their history. Along with the cultural significance, the wetland is also an important source of natural resources for the local communities.

The wetland is the source of fresh water for the fringe villages and also the primary source of irrigation for wet rice cultivation, horticulture and agriculture. Pala wetland also serves as the primary source of fish for the community. The wetland is an important tourist destination and the unique assemblage attracts the scientific community as well, for research and survey work.

Spread across 1850 hectares, Pala is the largest natural wetland in the state of Mizoram. Photo by David Khiangte

Pala wetland is revered and is deeply linked with the history of Mara people inhabiting the region. According to oral history, the wetland is said to have originated after the demise of an ancient humongous snake terrorising the villagers. This origin story has been passed down through generations, instilling a sense of guardianship among the inhabitants towards the wetland and its vegetation.

Another important aspect of this wetland is that the earliest settlements of the Mara tribe upon immigrating from Myanmar (then Burma) are said to have been around this wetland reserve. Historians and anthropologists could study this immigration theory to trace the lineage of Mara people and the people of Mizoram.

Pala wetland in Mizoram supports a diverse flora and fauna, including 227 species of flora, 7 species of mammals, 222 species of birds, 21 species of reptiles, 11 species of amphibians and 3 species of fish. The wetland also hosts several globally threatened species, such as sambar deer (Rusa unicolor), Asiatic black bear(Ursus thibetanus), and slow loris(Nyctibetus coucang), and Hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock).

The wetland provides refuge and breeding ground for IUCN red-listed critically endangered species of animals including yellow tortoise (Indotestudo elongata), Southeast Asian giant tortoise (Manouria emys) and black softshell turtle (Nilssonia nigricans). The wetland increases the habitat diversity within a predominantly forested area and along with low human disturbance provides nesting, foraging, and refugia for several species  

Pala wetland is located in Siaha district in Mizoram. Photo by David Khiangte

The Ramsar site includes the wetland and its surrounding forest, which form its catchment. The nearest human settlements are the villages of Phura (6 km) and Tokalo (5 km) in Saiha district.

Hillocks of lush semi-evergreen forest surround the Pala wetland. The forest follows the Pala stream, which originates from the eastern side of the wetland, flowing downwards to the location where the gorge opens in the shallow valley adjoining Phura village.

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