Noted water conservationist and Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Rajendra Singh on Sunday said if Kanwar lake, one of Asia’s largest freshwater oxbow lakes, is to be saved, the original sources of water to it must be reinstated. Singh, who visited the lake, said the canal built to drain out water from the lake area for agricultural purposes should also be done away with.
Singh, who held a meeting with various stakeholders, including people of local Musahar community and fishermen, said these stakeholders must be given their due share in the form of land for habitation in the notified area and free fishing right in order to restore the lake with its true pristine beauty. About 500 Musahar families reside at Jaimangla Garh village where the Kanwar lake-cum-bird sanctuary is situated. After holding a meeting with the Musahars and the local fishermen, including women, Singh said, “Without connecting the livelihood and well-being of these communities with conservation of the lake, any move in this direction could not succeed.”
Incidentally, the government had notified 15,700 acres of land as bird sanctuary way back in 1986. However, since then only 1,500 acres of land could actually be identified and the remaining continue to remain under dispute. “The government must take immediate step to demarcate the notified area and identify it under the disputed and undisputed category. Further, water channels leading to the lake from the adjacent low land areas like Hasanpur, Garhpura, Chharahi, Cheria Bariarpur and Bakhri must be facilitated again as over course of time, these have been blocked owing to illegal constructions and encroachments,” Singh said.
Moreover, a conflict of interest persists between local farmers and the Musahar and fishermen communities as the former wanted two-thirds of the notified area to be used for agriculture.
Singh, however, said if Bihar is to be saved from the devastations of flood and drought, the state must engage itself in better water management. “Traditional sources of water must be conserved. Kanwar lake is a heritage site for the state. Its total safety means a lot for water and ecological conservation,” Singh said, adding that he would meet chief minister Nitish Kumar on Monday and offer suggestions for conservation of the lake and other water bodies in the state.