The Brahmaputra's silent riparian: the silent biodiversity of the river
By: Ananya Malik
- Brahmaputra region is home to unique flora and fauna
- Ensuring adequate conservation of natural capital along the Brahmaputra River has become one of the most essential prioritises
- Efforts should be made in the Brahmaputra basin for its sustainable development
- Species and their habitat must be protected to ensure the survival of all living things
The Brahmaputra basin is home to diverse ecosystems ranging from the Himalayan Mountains to the fertile plains of Assam and West Bengal. Due to the basin’s capacity to absorb floods, it also includes the flood plains of Assam and Bangladesh, which results in an incredible variety of ecosystems, forest/vegetation, wildlife, and all biotic and non-biotic components of nature.
Almost 75 protected areas exist in the region of Northeast India, which explains its biodiversity. North-east India’s Brahmaputra basin belongs to the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot, one of the 25 mega biodiversity hotspots recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. In India, it is the richest reservoir of biodiversity due to its unique physiographic and climatic characteristics. With 59% forest cover in the north-eastern region of India, this region is the most forested in the country.
The region supports a wide variety of vegetation types including cultivated plains grasslands, meadows, marshes, swamps, and forests (scrub, mixed deciduous, humid evergreen, temperate, and even alpine). The region is home to unique flora and fauna. Forest growth is supported by its effects in downstream areas. There are many valuable timber trees growing in Assam, as well as the lac insect that produces resin for the manufacture of shellac and bamboo thickets is commonly found in Assam and Bangladesh. Mangrove swamps in the delta region are home to many halophytic plants including Nipa palms. Some of the key biodiversity species are mentioned below:
Tiger (Panthera tigris), clouded leopard (Pardofelis nebulosa), capped langur, (Semnopithecus pileatus), gaur (Bos gaurus), barasingha deer (Cervus duvaucelii), sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee), India’s largest population of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) and the world’s largest population of Indian rhinoceros, and Asian black bears, along with pygmy hog, hispid hare, or the Malayan sun bear, pig-tailed macaque, golden langur, stump-tailed macaque, western hoolock gibbon.
Evergreen Syzygium, Cinnamomum and Magnoliaceae along with deciduous Terminalia myriocarpa, Terminalia citrina, Terminalia tomentosa, Tetrameles species. Understory trees and shrubs include the laurels Phoebe, Machilus, and Actinodaphne, Polyalthias, Aphanamixis, and cultivated Mesua ferrea and species of mahogany, cashews, nutmegs, and magnolias, with bamboos such as Bambusa arundinaria and Melocanna bambusoides.
370 species of birds with two endemic (the Manipur bush quail (Perdicula manipurensis) and the marsh babbler (Pellorneum palustre))
It is a place of rich flora and fauna
Diverse tributaries sustain a diverse ecoregion that facilitates the growth of various forest types and is home to endangered and threatened species including the Great One-horned Rhinoceros, Wild Water Buffalo, Royal Bengal Tiger, and Indian Elephant, as well as the critically endangered Ganges dolphin, which lives on the Red River.
The Indian government contributes additional funds to developing infrastructure under its ‘Act East Policy’, which enhances the tourism industry as a whole. Kaziranga, Orang, Dibru-Saikhowa, Manas and Nameri are among the five national parks in Assam covered by the Center’s ‘Swadesh Darshan.’
“In addition, ensuring adequate conservation of natural capital along the Brahmaputra River has become one of the most essential prioritises according to the global agendas of the sustainable development goals and the climate change and biodiversity commitments of India. “
However, the Brahmaputra River basin which harbours a rich and unique biodiversity is now facing an enormous threat due to various factors such as flooding and erosion, water resource development, climate change, and oil exploration. In the north east region, about 600 plant species are endangered, threatened, or rare; there are almost 800 orchids and 67 species at risk (32 mammals, 28 birds, 6 reptiles and 1 amphibian). In order to develop the Brahmaputra basin in a systematic manner, the issues discussed above need to be addressed carefully.
“Even though the government has always made efforts to develop the basin, conserve biodiversity, protect ecosystems, etc., the studies indicate that more work still needs to be done in these areas. “
Although the Brahmaputra River is one of the largest river systems on the planet, it is also one of the most under-studied, underdeveloped, and under-explored ones. In order to address key issues such as floods, sedimentation, water quality, aquatic biodiversity, etc., efforts should be made in the Brahmaputra basin for its sustainable development. As the population of the Brahmaputra River basin continues to grow, it is undergoing rapid industrial, agricultural, and economic development.
“As a result, the government should also devote more financial and physical resources to developing more rigorous scientific research for the basin. As it forms a unique river system, specific policies and action plans should also be developed to address these challenges.”
A diverse range of spiritual, cultural, aesthetic, and recreational values are associated with biodiversity, which contributes to the maintenance of ecological balance and evolutionary processes in natural resources, and human survival and well-being are heavily dependent on these natural resources. As a matter of fact, biological resources play a crucial role in human livelihoods and have assets that families generally depend on to survive. They indicate a wide range and abundance of species and their habitats, which must be protected to ensure the survival of all living things.
About The Author
Ananya Malik is an associate at MRC. Her research involves geopolitical, social, and ecological analysis of transboundary waters particularly Brahmaputra River. She is an alumnus of TERI where she did her masters in water science and governance. Her other research areas include climate risk, water security and carbon finance.