The Kanwar Taal or Kabar Taal Lake is situated in the Begusarai district of Bihar, India. Its official name is Kabartal Wetland. The total area occupied by the sanctuary measures about67.5 square kilometers.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) declared the Kanwar Taal Lake as the first Ramsar site in Bihar on July 21, 2020.
History of the Place
The lake was born due to the meandering of the Budhi Gandak River, a tributary of Ganga.
To avoid the poaching of birds, it was declared a protected zone by the Bihar state government in 1986.
The government of India declared it a bird sanctuary in 1989. The authorities had notified 15,000 acres (one acre equals 0.4 ha) in the area as wetland, making it six times bigger than Kaladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan—another well-known bird sanctuary of India.
The news of Kabar Taal wetland being declared a Ramsar site has been welcomed by the environmentalists who expect a change in its present condition.
Access to the Wetland
The nearest airport to the area is Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Airport in Patna. The nearest railway station, meanwhile, is Begusarai Station. The nearest bus stop is Jaimanglagadh.
Topography of Area
This lake covers 2,620 hectares of the Indo-Gangetic plains in the northern Bihar State. Kanwar lake almost covers a 67.5 km2 area.
According to a study led by Ashok Ghosh, a professor of environment and water management at the Anugrah Narayan College in Patna, the lake covered 6,786 ha in 1984, which got reduced to 6,043.825 ha in 2004. By 2012, the lake area had decreased further to a mere 2,032 ha.
Geology of Area
According to the geographical coordinate system, this place is located at 25°36′36″N 86°08′24″E.
Kanwar Jheel contains a mosaic of landforms including open water, marshes, plantations, agricultural lands, and interspersed settlements.
Sand and mud layers (representing channel margins), organic-rich mud (representing low back swamp areas), and soil horizons are the major sequences found in the alluvial plains.
Texturally, its soil varies from sandy loam to loam in the meander scroll and levee areas, to silty loam and silt in flood basin areas of the Himalayan Rivers, and from loam in the levees of Ganga to clayey loam and clay in the basin of River Burhi Gandak and River Bagmati.
Hydrology of the Land
The water of Kanwar Jheel is alkaline with an average pH of 7.8. This lake draws water from the confluence of the Gandak, the Bia, and the Kareh river, which is situated near Manjhaul, 22 km northwest of Begusarai, the district headquarters.
The Water Resources Department maintains gauge and discharges records for three stations within Burhi Gandak Basin, namely, Dadualghat on River Burhi Gandak, Dalsingh Sarai on River Balan, and Godiya on River Baya.
This lake is Asia’s largest freshwater oxbow lake. It is part of the 18 wetlands within an extensive floodplain complex.
It floods during the monsoon season to a depth of 1.5 meters. This absorption of floodwaters is a vital service in Bihar State where 70% of the land is vulnerable to inundation. During the dry season, marshland areas dry out and are used for agriculture.
There are 165 plants species seen at Kanwar lake. Trees around this lake are:
- Mangifera indica
- Annona squamosa
- Polyalthia longifolia
- Borassus flabellifer
- Cocos nucifera
- Phoenix sylvestris
- Haplophragma Hymenophyllum
- Bombax ceiba
- Ceiba pentandra
- Cordia dichotoma
- Ehretia laevis
- Bauhinia variegata
- Cassia fistula
- Delonix regia
- Peltophorum pterocarpum
- Tamarindus indica
- Trema oriental
- Terminalia arjuna
- Diospyros Montana
- Croton roxburghii
- Trivia nudiflora
- Dalbergia sissoo
- Leucaena leucocephala
- Pongamia glabra
- Phoebe lanceolate
- Azadirachta indica
- Melia azedarach
- Swietenia macrophylla
- Acacia catechu
- Acacia nilotica,
- Albizia lebbeck
- Pithecellobium dulce
- Artocarpus heterophyllus
- Artocarpus lacucha
- Ficus benghalensis
- Ficus hispida
- Ficus racemose
- Ficus religiosa
- Ficus virens
- Streblus asperMoringa oleifera, Eucalyptus tereticornis, Psidium guajava, Syzygium cumini Nyctanthes arbor-tristis, Phyllanthus Emblica, Bambusa bamboos, Dendrocalamus strictus, Ziziphus mauritiana, Anthocephalus kadamba, Aegle marmelos, Citrus maxima, Madhuca indica, and Tectona Brandi’s.
Kanwar Lake recorded 394 animal species, including 221 bird species. This lake provides shelter to 58 migratory water birds.
Three endangered vultures were seen here along with two waterbirds. These are Red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus), White-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis),tracean vulture (Gyps indicus), and the sociable lapwing (Vanellus gregarious), and Baer’s pochard (Aythya baeri), respectively.
Salon Ali, an Ornithologist, recorded about 60 migratory birds that come from Central Asia in winter and recorded around 106 species of resident birds.
Islands in the Lake
As per the Bihar Wetland Development Authority report, there is no trace of any island around Kabar Taal Lake.
Economic Evaluation of the Lake’s Resources
Fishers and farmers are the major groups inhabiting these villages. While farmers engage mostly in agriculture within and outside the wetland area, fishers have diversified into various activities, including wage labor, small and marginal farming, and running small businesses.
At Kanwar lake, the fishermen capture around 6 to 7 kilograms of fish every day.
The most predominant human use of vegetation is macrophytes as food, fuel, fodder for the cattle, fish feed, and decoration. Kanwar is an important source of fodder and fuelwood for the neighboring villages.
Communities harvest several aquatic plants for use as medicines like flowers of Nymphaea nuchal (Koka), leaves of Centella Asiatica, fish food (Ceratophyllum demersum and Hydrilla verticillata also known as Darah grass), and handicrafts (Phragmites karka, Cyperus iria)at a very low scale.
Deterioration of the Lake Environment
Major threats to the sites are as follows:
- Water Management Canalization
- Water Abstraction
- Use of chemicals to capture birds
The lake’s depth is also declining fast due to the infestation of aquatic weeds. The excessive use of groundwater for irrigation in the protected areas has also taken a heavy toll. Some 60 percent of the land is also under illegal farming, while some five percent is being used for non-agricultural purposes.
Another environmentalist said an embankment on the Old Gandak river near the lake has choked the major water inlet to the wetland and left it primarily dependent on rainwater.
Environmentalists said the lake was once the nestling ground for 165 plant species, 394 animal species, including 221 bird species but today it’s a dying ecosystem due to continued poaching of residents as well as migratory birds.
The poaching of birds around the protected site needs to be punished. Encroachment of the Kanwar lake by the village people has to be controlled by the state administration.
Kanwar lake was declared a notified area under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. Dipak Kumar Singh, principal secretary of forest and environment, said the department would seek the help of the water resources department to ensure the flow of water from Burhi Gandak to the lake. Nearly 3,000 hectares out of the total 6,700 hectares covered by the lake are said to be private ownership. The department would soon develop a detailed plan to protect and expand the wetland.