Cooch Behar, the one and only planned township in North Bengal, boasts of as many as 22 wetlands. These wetlands were once rich in biodiversity but in contemporary times, the avian ecosystem around popular wetland like Rajmata Dighi is on decline owing to factors like pollution, rise in human population and low level of mass awareness. In an effort to safeguard the biodiversity in and around the wetland -Rajmata Dighi, Cooch Behar Anashristi Group has taken up cudgels to restore the lost avian habitat.

In order to commemorate World Environment Day, the environmental entity hosted an awareness programme at Rajmata Dighi on 5 June.

Sumanta Saha, secretary, Cooch Behar Anashristi Group, said, “We launched an awareness drive to preserve the biodiversity of the region and also hosted a rally to ban the use of plastic goods. Plastic has a prominent role in aggravating air pollution. This is just the beginning of our awareness campaign and we are charting out plans to host workshops on ways to preserve tortoise. It is imperative for the residents to know the biodiversity of area in which they reside. Nearly seven years ago, a plethora of migratory avian species flew down to Rajmata Dighi but now it has become a thing of the past.” Near about 80 locals participated in the event.

The wetland Rajmata Dighi is steeped in heritage and derives its name from the queen of the Koch dynasty that once ruled the town. The 200-year-old wetland lies in Cooch Behar Sadar. There is some good news as far as faunal biodiversity of the wetland goes. The number of tortoise sightings in and around the pond has gone up this year.

Saha said, “At least 20 tortoises have been found close to the wetland in the existing year. The current season marks the breeding period of tortoises. At the same time, a number of Indian jackals can be sighted close to the wetland. The wetland is encircled by greenery all around and a lot of plantations have been taken up in its vicinity. Moreover, there is less human habitation and presence of plethora of dense groves around the wetland. Besides, there are three tiny caves at a close proximity of the pond that form hideout for Indian jackals.” There has also been an increase in the number of poisonous snakes like cobra in the heritage town of Cooch Behar.