In India, forty-nine Ramsar sites have been considered to be the “international importance” under the Ramsar Convention. According to the Worldwide Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India), wetland areas are one of the most threatened ecosystems in India. This organization sincerely worked to safeguard and secure natural heritage and ecology for more than fifty years.
Among the 29 Ramsar sites, Rudrasagar Lake is a potentially significant “bird area” and attracts many waterfowl during the winter season.
Located in Melaghar, Tripura, the Rudrasagar Lake was approved as a Ramsar Site on November 8, 2005, by India’s Ministry of Environmental and Forest.
The lake is also called Twijilikma and is a natural sedimentation reservoir.
History of the Place
Rudrasagar Lake is situated in the Melaghar Block under Sonamura Sub-Division in the West Tripura District in Tripura, India. It is an artificial lake built by an Ahom King – Lakshmi Singha, in memory of his father King Rudra Singha.
From the king, the name Rudrasagar is derived. 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.
Access to the Wetland
A wetland is a place where the land is covered by water. Vijaya Dashami, one of the most important Hindu festivals with various sports events, attracts at least 50,000 tourists and devotees every year. And they all visit this place during that period.
The best time to visit here is October to April between 6:00 A.M to 6:00 P.M.
For bus travel, there are many local buses available. There is a small signboard showing the way towards the lake. The road gave way to the huge Rudrasagar Lake. And from the lakeside, the palace will appear as a white and red structure.Boats are available to take you to the Neermahal Palace.
There is Maharaja Bir Biham International Airport and Kailashahar Airport for air travel. For train travel, there is Agartala Railway Station and more.
Topography of Area
A lowland Sedimentation Reservoir in the northeast hills, fed by three perennial streams discharging to the River Gomti.
The three streams are Noacherra, Durlavnaraya cherry, and Kemtali cherry. In addition, with the high rainfall (2500mm) and downstream topography, the wetland is regularly flooded with 4-5 times annual peak, increasing groundwater recharge.
Geology of Area
The soil in the Rudrasagar Lake is silty clay loam to clay loam. The lake bed has been set by silt deposition. Geographically the lake is situated in between 23掳29掳 N and 90掳01掳 E. The total land area of Rudrasagar and adjacent panchayats areas are as follows:
- Lake area (water area) – 364.61 acres.
- Agriculture land – 1,465.86 acres
- Homestead land, road, – 241.31 acres
- Total: 2,071.78 acres.
Hydrology of the Land
Lake water is fresh with insignificant pollution with a depth of 2 to 9 m. Fluctuation in water level varies from 9 to 16 m. The downstream area of the lake is 750 ha with temperature variation from 5掳C to 37 掳C. Physico-chemical characteristics of the soil and water lake areas of perennial type fed mainly agricultural runoff. About 20% of the lake is covered with macrophytes. An annual boat festival is organized in July/August. This lake also serves as an ideal spot for water sports and boating. It also serves as a significant source of groundwater recharge for the surrounding villages.
A total of 101 food fishes and 98 ornamental fishes can be found in the lake. Bhattacharjee (2013) reported the occurrence of 103 fish species belonging to 12 orders, 27 families, and 63 genera during a study of the fish faunal availability in Tripura during 2009-10.
A majority of the fish species of Northeast India, which were once abundant, have depleted from the wild waters.
Rudrasagar Lake mainly attracts a lot of migratory birds every year, especially waterfowl in the winter. The rarer species recorded are as follows:
- Baer’s pochard
- Ferruginous duck
Islands in the lake
The Rudrasagar Lake is known for the famous lake palace of Tripura, Neermahal, which is built in the center of the lake. Neermahal was constructed by the then Tripura King Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur between 1935 and 1938 as a summer resort.
One has to travel by boat through the Rudrasagar lake to reach the Neermahal palace. During August, a huge festival is carried at Melaghar and Rudrasagar Lake, known as the Neermahal Water festival. Boat races and various cultural events are held during this festival.
Economic evaluation of the lake’s resources
The lake is plentiful in commercially important freshwater fishes like Botia spp, Notopterus Chitala, Mystus app, Ompok panda, Labeo bata, and Freshwater scampi. With an annual output of 26 metric tons, and an excellent habitat for IUCN Red listed Three-striped Roof Turtle Kachuga dhongka. Aquatic weeds are collected of rare marginal-floating-emergent-submerged weeds. The government owns the land with perennial water areas leased out to the subsistent fishermen’s cooperative, and surrounding seasonal waterbodies are promoted for paddy.
Deterioration of the lake environment
The major reason for the damage of this Rudrasagar Lake is pollution. Due to pollution, this lake has been severely affected. The hardships faced by the place are as follows:
- Rivalry among the local villagers for using lake water such as for drinking, fishing, and so on.
- There is a lack of awareness, scientific knowledge, and omission in protection by the constitution.
- Absence of public toilet facilities for the community people around Rudrasagar Lake. Soil Erosion near the lake decreased the depth of the lake.
- Usage of pesticides and fertilizer for agricultural activities affected the lake area.
- Anthropogenic (environmental changes created by humans directly or indirectly, for example, greenhouse gases) initiated solid and semisolid pollutants.
- The authorities and legal status of the lake area have not been declared clearly.
- Eutrophication or the uncontrolled growth of unknown invasive species such as Water Hyacinth.
- Excessive algae were identified around Rudrasagar Lake, which led to the loss of aquatic biodiversity.
- This lake doesn’t have a distinct Wetland Authority, Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) for Lake Management, and conservation with a unified requirement has not been set up.
- Deforestation, filling, draining, and degradation of wetland areas.
- Clearing and removal of native herbage due to the rapid unplanned urbanization, rural or industrial development.
- Throwing constructed waste and materials along the shoreline.
- Untreated or poorly treated domestic and industrial effluents from point sources located all over the basin.
Because of these reasons, the area of Rudrasagar Lake has been decreased drastically from 1000 hectares. Currently, silting of lakes is on account of gained erosion due to the expansion of urban and agricultural areas, deforestation, flood, immersion of idols by religious activity, and other land discomforts taking place in the drainage basin of the lake.
A union plan is underway by the MoEF-India. Ramsar site no. 1572.
Boating is an activity that can also be enjoyed at the Rudrasagar lake. The charming spot boasting of its beauty and tranquility is a delightful visiting experience. To minimize hazards and restore wetlands degraded by past human activity or to enhance biodiversity, an inventory study was carried out by researchers in the Rudrasagar Lake at six different sampling sites to understand the hydro-biological parameters, natural productivity, fish species diversity.
New and innovative approaches to managing lakes and their basins are urgently needed to ensure that this precious freshwater ecosystem continues to deliver its services. Thus, it is high time to understand the value of the wetland ecosystem and the role that their sustainable utilization can play in achieving social and economic goals.