Kanwar Lake, Asia's largest freshwater oxbow lake, in Begusarai district in Bihar, has been reduced to a vanishing wetland ecosystem as a result of encroachments, coupled with government inaction to save the natural aquifer. Situated at a distance of around 125 kilometres from the state capital Patna, Kanwar Lake was declared a protected area in 1986 by the Bihar government under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, which prohibited poaching, agricultural, industrial or any other activity in the area. In 1989, the Centre declared the wetland as a bird sanctuary. The lake is six times bigger than Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, another well-known bird sanctuary in India. An extensive study on the wetland in 2012 by Ashok Ghosh, a scientist and chairman of the Bihar State Pollution Control Board, found that the lake covered 6,786 hectares in 1984. In 1986, when the Bihar government notified the lake as a protected area, it declared 6,070 hectares as wetland. However, the total area of the lake had reduced to 6,043.825 hectares in 2004, which further reduced to a mere 2,032 hectares by 2012. Ghosh's research also showed that 60 per cent of the land is under illegal farming, while 5.13 per cent is being put to non-agricultural use. Ghosh attributes the shrinking wetland to encroachments by farmers who have built shanties and houses and land sharks engaging in construction activities. The biggest casualty of the encroachment is the local fisherfolk, whose livelihood is at stake. They are at loggerheads with the farmers, who want only 566 hectares of the lake to be notified as a wetland. They also want the area to be developed as Krishi Evam Pakshi Vihar
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Environment and forest department, Government of Bihar , Department of revenue and land reforms, Government of Bihar
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