Badri Chatterjee


The Jamsar lake is around 600-700 years old. (Jamsar gram sabha)

 
 
 
 

 

The gram sabha of the Jamsar hamlet in Palghar’s Jawhar taluka, located around 134km from Mumbai, had recently passed a unanimous resolution to declare a 6.16-hectare (ha) heritage lake as a wetland. Archaeological surveys of the lake have showed the presence of an ancient temple and artefacts dating back to the early medieval period (6th century AD).

This is the first in India where a governing body of a village has expressed its interest to declare a natural site a wetland, a member of the Centre’s National Wetland Committee (NWC) said.

“Along with flora-fauna, cultural and historical factors also play a major role in declaring a site a wetland. This has been highlighted by a village themselves, a first for India. The gram panchayat’s resolution should be studied, followed by on-field assessment by state authorities to declare Jamsar a wetland as a top priority. This approach should be adopted by more village bodies to protect natural areas,” said Afroz Ahmad, member, NWC.

While Jamsar has a population of around 1,300 people, the closest town Jawhar (around 8km away) has more than 1.7 lakh citizens. To achieve the wetland status, the village panchayat kept several meetings over the past one year and appointed a committee of experts to help them draft the resolution.

“Jamsar is included in the National Wetland Inventory Atlas (NWIA), Maharashtra, prepared by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). We have also highlighted Article 51A of the constitution, which has stated that it is a fundamental duty to protect the environment. Accordingly, we have requested the district collector to take an appropriate action in accordance with the resolution passed,” said Vitthal Thetale, sarpanch (village head), Jamsar.

Jawahar resident Rajesh Tendulkar, who helped put together the resolution, said, “This lake is at least 600-700 years old, and there is a need to create a conservation model for the artefacts and lake-wetland ecology.”

When HT shared the details with the Maharashtra government, officials said they would consider declaring it a wetland.

“The state is focused towards protecting all natural areas that contribute to ecological benefits to achieve our intention of Majhi Vasundhara (climate change mitigation and adaptation). We will initiate the necessary proceedings to ensure the site is declared a wetland if the area has all the ecological characteristics of being a wetland, and also has cultural and heritage value,” said Manisha Mhaiskar, principal secretary, state environment department.

“We hope more such gram sabhas and villages having these natural areas come forward with similar representations for protection,” she added.

According to the survey of wetlands (brief documentation) by Palghar district last year, Jamsar was identified among 86 potential wetlands. The document was submitted before the Bombay high court (HC) last year. However, only six sites were proposed by the district before the state environment department for final notification.

“We have asked the Palghar collector to re-verify all wetland sites in the district, and include areas with slightest wetland features or those included in the NWIA,” said Annasaheb Misal, Konkan commissioner.

Palghar collector Manik Gursal said, “We are already assessing features of potential wetlands. We will look into Jamsar, study the resolution, and do the needful.”

During the wetland survey at Palghar last year, the district had appointed Sindhudurg-based Syamantak organisation following which a team of experts (Saba Purkar and Samarth Parab) conducted an anthropological exploration of the lake, locally called Pazar Talao, where they found a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and several carved stones. The study has also revealed that the area had artefacts dating from 6th century AD to 13th century AD, with several artefacts being comparatively recent – from 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. In all, 114 artefacts were found across two clusters including stones and fragments.

“A small hamlet in Palghar has set an example that sustainable and environment-friendly development is needed for an hour,” said Sachin Desai from Syamantak, adding that Jamsar should be proposed as a Ramsar site (wetland of international importance).

“The Ramsar Convention has been addressing the issue of the cultural aspects of wetlands for over 10 years. Jamsar is a perfect example.”

Syamantak has called for the development of a village herbarium, a Museumotel (a village museum-cum-home stay), guide programme for village youth and documentaries of the site to promote tourism and protection of the wetland in its brief documentation.

Jamsar: A hidden archaeological, wetland treasure

The 6.16 ha Jamsar lake has a shallow water body with marsh plants such as typha reeds and aquatic grass making it an ideal habitat for aquatic migratory birds during winter, amphibians, and odonates. According to the wetland brief documentation, there are 59 species of flora at Jamsar, of which 10 are rare species, two are endangered ones, while one is a vulnerable species. Traditional fishing with catch, including fish of the carp family – rohu, catla, mrigal, maral and prawns – is carried out. Stone idols found in wetlands indicate distinct anthropological imprints. Such remains are said to be dating back to the early medieval period. Among the threats, the spread of invasive species such as water hyacinths (Eichhornia crassipes), present in large amounts in the water body, affects the water flow and blocks sunlight from reaching native aquatic plants. It decreases concentration of dissolved oxygen in water, which often causes death of species.

(Source: Wetland Brief Documentation of Jamsar Lake Wetland)