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  Kabar Tal, a 7,400-ha lake in Begusarai district of Bihar, is ecologically one of the most important wetlands in the state and is considered one of South Asia's largest freshwater lakes. The lake hosts 106 species of resident birds and is a nesting ground for 59 species of migratory birds. In addition, the wetland supports a large number of flora and fauna round the year. Economically, too, the lake is significant because it yields about two tonnes of fish everyday and is the single biggest source of irrigation in the area. The wetland is used simultaneously for rice cultivation, fishing, and many other uses. Agriculture is the most important use of the wetland and the basic source of income in the area. In 2004, more than 41 species of fish were recorded from the lake. The lake is known to support a rich and diverse aquatic flora.

In 1986, Kabar Tal was declared a protected area. The wetland, despite being a proposed Ramsar site since 1987, was not included among the 13 others declared as wetlands of international importance in 2002. Kabar Tal of late has drawn national and international attention and the Union government has identified it among the wetlands of national importance-- the only one with this designation in Bihar. The Ministry of environment and forest has identified more wetlands, including Kabar Tal, to be included in the list of wetlands of national importance.

There is shrinkage in the wetland’s area from 6,786 ha in 1984 to 6,043 ha in 2002. Despite the government’s declaration of Kabar Tal as a Bird sanctuary in 1989 and subsequent prohibitory measures, Kabar Tal continues to be exploited for fodder, fuel, fish, and other wetland products. The wetland is under threat from anthropogenic pressures. There is threat because of reclamation of land for agriculture and excessive removal of biomass by human population. The lake is threatened by pollution and effluents released by the local habitants. The water of the lake is turbid and acidic in nature. The DO in the lake is 7.6 mg/L. The lake is categorized as highly eutrophic lake. Due to this, the use of the water by the local people has resulted in dermatological and digestive disorders among the inhabitants. The massive inflow of silt is also decreasing the depth of the lakes. Every year about 3.8 cm of silt is deposited in the Kabar Tal Lake.

As a part of its flood control strategy, the State government had constructed a canal in the decade of the fifties, to drain out the excess floodwaters into the Ganga River during the monsoons. However, in the succeeding decades, lack of maintenance caused the sediment deposits to choke this outlet. In 1994, State government wanted to drain the water out of Kabar Tal and convert it into a farmland. According to them, it would be a service to the farmers who have their names entered in the state revenue records as owners of the lake area. This resulted in the loss of biodiversity in the wetland.
Down to Earth
The vanishing lakes

The Sahanis are known as "masters of water'. This fishing community had been living in the wetlands of north Bihar for aeons, relying on them for sustenance. They did so by fishing or helping people cross the surging rivers that crisscross the floodplain. Or by displaying their art of trapping birds.


Beware of the developers

KABAR Tal, a 7,500-ha lake in Begusarai district of north Bihar, is ecologically one of the most important wetlands in the state. The lake hosts 106 species of resident birds and is a nesting ground for 59 species of migratory birds.


Research Paper


A.K. Ghosh and N. Bose
Department of Environment and Water Management,


Syed Ainul Hussain and Ruchi Badola
Wildlife Institute of India
Post Box #18
Dehra Dun 248001

Nandan, K. B and Singh, C. B.
Department of Botany,
S.M. College,
Bhagalpur - 812 001
Bihar, India.