Tripura govt in a fix over releasing water from Rudrasagar Lake



The farmers' movement in Tripura to have water released from the internationally recognised Rudrasagar Lake has put the state government in a tight spot as the wetland is one of India's 27 Ramsar sites.

The central government as per the Ramsar convention is liable to protect and develop the bio-diversity of the Rudrasagar Lake in Melghar, western Tripura.

The lake falls under the policy and legislative measures of the union government. So, the state government is unable to act alone to release water or to alter the natural eco-system for the cultivators or others.

Thousands of farmers belonging to 17 villages have been agitating since November 19 to get excess water released from the Rudrasagar Lake and channel it to Gumati river.

Tripura's last king Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur built a majestic palace "Neermahal" in 1930 in the middle of Rudrasagar Lake as his summer residence.

The Union Forest and Environment Ministry had earlier declared Rudrasagar as the 13th national lake, which covers an area of around 5.3 sq kms and is home to a variety of migratory birds and flora and fauna.

"Following a case filed by a tourist in 2017, the Tripura High Court in consultation with various authorities including Wetland Management Committee had ordered to maintain the water level of Rudrasagar Lake at least 11 meter in order to protect the ecosystem of the lake," Sonamura Sub-Divisional Magistrate Subrata Majumder said.

"The court in a subsequent order reduced the stipulated water level from 11 meter to 10 meter. But the agitating cultivators have been demanding to further reduce the water level to less than 8 meter," he added.

Majumder said that the Wetland Grievance Committee (WGC) headed by Principal Conservator of Forests Amit Shukla visited Rudrasagar Lake and nearby areas on Tuesday and met the farmers, local people and officials.

The WGC will submit its report to the state government by Saturday. Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb has deputed Law and Education Minister Ratan Lal Nath, who visited the area on Monday and spoke to all the stakeholders.

Former Chief Engineer of the Water Resource Department Tapan Lodh said that the Rudrasagar Wetland Development Committee (RWDC) headed by the Tripura Chief Secretary had over the past few decades remained casual about this vital issue leading to a serious situation now.

"The RWDC should have conducted a study and taken suitable measures to protect and develop the hydrological, environmental and economic (livelihood) balance of the Rudrasagar Lake. Protection of diverse flora and fauna and varied fishes of the water body was extremely vital, but nothing was done," Lodh told IANS.

India is also a signatory to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the Convention of Biological Diversity. The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an inter-governmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

The Ramsar Convention is the only global environment treaty dealing with a particular ecosystem.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was developed as a means to call international attention to the rate at which wetland habitats were disappearing, due to lack of understanding of their important functions.

The structure of the water palace "Neermahal" in the midst of Rudrasagar Lake is a blend of Hindu-Muslim architecture. The then king's summer resort has 24 rooms with provision for private quarters (Andarmahal) for the king and his family and retinue of servants.

Historian and writer Salil Debbarma told IANS that at the end of the 1355-year-rule by 184 kings, on October 15, 1949, the erstwhile princely state of Tripura came under the control of the Central government after a merger agreement was signed between regent Maharani Kanchan Prabha Devi and the Indian Governor General.

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