Assamese Gamosa and Freshwater Turtle

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Context: The multipurpose Assamese gamosa, a ubiquitous, white cotton towel, has been assigned a new function conservation of rare freshwater turtles.

Prelims: Current events of national and international importance.
Mains: GS I And III-

  • Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature, and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Assamese Gamosa:

  • Few cultural symbols are as utilitarian as the white handmade cotton gamosa, with its characteristic red border of woven motifs.
  • It is valued as a gift for visitors, used as a scarf, anti-dust mask, wrapped around the head as a turban.
  • Conservationists are now banking on this cultural icon to carry forward the message of turtle conservation, with gamosas woven with turtle images.


Activists are banking on the ‘gamosa’, woven with images of endangered turtles, to spread the message of conservation.

Turtles in Assam:

  • India hosts 28 species of turtles, of which 20 are found in Assam.
  • Recently black softshells hatchings were released into the Haduk Beel (wetland) of Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam.


Black softshell turtle:

  • The black softshell turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) figures in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List as “extinct in the wild” since 2002.
  • Consumption of turtle meat and eggs, silt mining, encroachment of wetlands and change in flooding patterns have had a disastrous impact on the State’s turtle population.


  • Turtles occupy a unique position within the food web. They consume an assortment of prey, including pufferfish, crustaceans, sponges, tunicates, seagrasses, and algae. The unusual life cycle of the animal plays a vital role in the transportation of nutrients from the highly productive marine habitats such as sea-grass beds to energy-poor habitats like sandy beaches. This helps reverse the usual flow of nutrients from land to sea.
  • They further help to maintain healthy fish stocks in the water bodies.
  • Unhatched eggs, eggshells, and fluids help foster decomposes and create much-needed fertilizer.
  • As turtle populations in general decline, so does their ability to play a vital role in maintaining the health of the world’s aquatic ecosystems.                                              

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