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Shon Beel, Barak Valley
The beautiful and mesmerizing lake, Shon Beel is the second largest seasonal wetland in Asia and the largest wetland in Assam. It is situated in the Karimganj district, state of Assam. The beel is dotted with Barringtonia Acutangula locally called ‘Hizol’ which is the main tree that grows in the wetland besides reeds and various other aquatic plants. The beel is approximately 12.5km long and 3.9km wide with a 35.4km shoreline. The beel is a traditional fishing ground for ages. A home for more than 70 species of fish and 27 species of bird and approximately 35,000 families directly dependent on the beel for traditional fishing. Extensive fertile and flat land around and along the water body has potentially higher yield from agricultural crops.
Shon Beel Turns Farmland For Cultivation
Shon Beel becomes a farm land for vegetable cultivation during winter till March and then the land fills with water and becomes a lake. Shon Beel played a critical role in maintaining many natural cycles and supporting a wide range of biodiversity. Beel purify and replenish our water, and provide the fish and rice that feed billions. Beel serves as a natural sponge against flooding and drought, protects our coastlines and helps fight climate change. The less depth of the lake makes it overflow during the rainy season and the water meets Kushiara River through Kakra River and flows to Bangladesh. The lake gives a picturesque landscape with hills on both east and west sides. The inlet and outlets of Shon Beel is River Shingla that originates in Manipur. Residents of Barak Valley often visit or stop over at Shon Beel for a breath of fresh air and get immersed in the serenity of the landscape. The beel attracts ecotourists and visitors. However, the hard realities of increasing conservation threats to this unique biodiversity site lie hidden beneath the spectacular sights.
Why Shon Beel Is Considered As Lifeline For The Locals
Fishermen depend on it for their daily source of income. Fishermen living in huts which are built out of bamboo, rocks, metal plates and rods. The view of the beel turns picturesque as soon as the sun sets. The silence is disturbed occasionally by fishermen, as their oars splash against still water. The mornings on Shon Beel starts with the fishermen getting ready with their fishing nets and bamboo baskets to catch their fishes. Fishing and selling their catch in the market is the only livelihood for these local fishermen. In the high season from May to August, the fishermen go on rampant fishing along the beel. The harmonious community of fishermen stands as an exemplary representation of unity. The community work together and helps each other throughout. And fishing provides herd livelihood to the local fishermen. The economic, social, and spiritual lives of the local people who over generations developed a range of fishing techniques for all seasons. Local religious rituals are not complete without certain types of fish and aquatic plants from the beel, some of which they are now struggling to find.
Shon Beel Birder’s Paradise
The beel is also a birder’s paradise. The most commonly sighted birds in the region include black kite, northern hill myna, East Himalayan pied kingfisher, lesser skylark, lesser eastern jungle crow, Burmese pied myna are found in the beel which makes it a tourist spot for birdwatchers. Shon Beel is not only beautiful but a fun place to be at too. You can visit Shon Beel by simply boarding buses and taxis on hire, private cars with minimal costing. The road conditions are good which lets you enjoy a short, pain-free ride. It can be visited all through the year as the temperature is soothing with an average rate of 21 degree Celsius.
Shon Beel can be easily reached from Karimganj which is approximately 43km away with a driving time of an hour. It is the major tourist destination of the town. This beel is a perfect tourist spot for several reasons and located at the heart of the town and hilly areas and it offers a variety of leisure activities. The beel is located nearby the town. The well-laid streets, under a canopy of trees, were part hilly, part flat. Local haat- bazaar, the town’s nucleus, was a mish-mash of concrete buildings and makeshift cane and bamboo shops, standalone hawkers elbowing between them. Weekly bazaar hustled with smallholding farmers travelling miles with fresh produce for market day and people bargaining the already low prices. In this “original ” farmers’ market, one could buy country chicken in bamboo cages, jhum-cultivated rice and vegetables, multi-coloured corn, tribal chillies, edible insects, and homemade liquor, among others.
The scenic beauty of the beel along with greenery and sun on the top will remind you of old Bollywood movies with a blink of eyes. One of the most beautiful lakes,Shon Beel has photographers delight and tourist sites in barak valley. This lake is a peaceful spot to spend some quality time alone or with your loved ones. The beauty of the beel and the serene surroundings never cease a chance of catching the site of visitors. That’s why people prefer coming to the beel to seek some mental peace. The beel is situated in a tranquil environment, in the lap of nature. It is a perfect picnic spot. The scenery is a refreshing break from the usual city landscape. The enchanting beauty of the beel is like candy to sore eyes. It is a great place to be for all those people who love to view the true beauty of mother nature.
The charming beauty of crystal clear waters not just claims the nerves on one side but also excites people to take mental peace and freshness. Those unfamiliar with the location of this beel may be surprised to learn that, far from being a remote and isolated beauty spot. Shon beel is sited within the major city of barak valley and is therefore regarded as being an “Urban Lake”.
To get splendid views of sunset, hike to any of the places overlooking the beel and gaze in awe as the burning orb of the sun slides down the horizon, painting the sky in myriad hues of red and gold, surrounded by mesmerizing small villages, Shon beel is considered an ideal spot for a picnic amidst nature. The chief attraction of the beel is the natural lagoon that has been formed in the beel. A visit to the nearby village will help one understand the culture and lifestyle of the ethnic community. Barak valley is well connected to all the major cities of the country by rail, by road and by air. One can stay in the valley that offers several star rated hotels ranging from luxury to budget-friendly ones. There are excellent accommodation facilities in and around the town.
Contributed by: Jahid Ahmed Choudhury
Entrepreneur/ Community Health and Travel Blogger/ Social Worker/Member, Team Nomad Lawyer
Edited by: Imtiaz Ullah
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