GUWAHATI, April 28 - Conservation circles have voiced concern over the indiscriminate raising of artificial highlands inside Kaziranga National Park, saying that the exercise was totally uncalled for and would spell doom for the celebrated rhino-land which is also a Tiger Reserve and a World Heritage Site.
�The ongoing haphazard creation of highlands � that too in such large numbers � is absolutely unwarranted and it would destroy Kaziranga�s ecology. The effects might be slow to emerge but in the long run the park�s ecological integrity will be ruined,� Bhupen Talukdar, retired forest official and an authority on Kaziranga and other rhino-bearing areas, told The Assam Tribune.
Incidentally, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), in its recent assessment of the ills plaguing Kaziranga, quoted extensively from a report by Talukdar made in 1996. �I made a number of recommendations but the State government chose to sit on those,� he said.
Talukdar said that the ongoing highland creation, which is being done in great haste, is devoid of any prior scientific assessment. It completely ignored the peculiar ecological situation of Kaziranga, which forms a single contiguous belt with the forested hills of
�Kaziranga needs floods for replenishing its wetlands and, in fact, for sustaining its entire biodiversity. On the one side floodwater from the Brahmaputra washes it and on the other, it receives water from several small rivers from the Karbi Anglong hills. The hills also happen to be the natural refuge of Kaziranga�s wildlife, not only during floods but also in other seasons as well,� he said.
Talukdar said that barring the first highland created in the 1970s, which was a scientific exercise that took into account the environmental factors, like water flow, circulation, velocity, etc., the subsequent exercises were unscientific, and the worst had been the recent indiscriminate creation of highlands.
�Now highlands are being raised on all low-lying areas without any scientific assessment. The fact is, Kaziranga does not need any of these highlands. The focus should have been in maintaining Kaziranga�s contiguity with Karbi Anglong hills,� he said.
Voicing similar concerns, Dr Bibhab Talukdar, secretary general of Aaranyak, said that the exercise is fraught with ominous fallouts for Kaziranga�s wildlife and overall biodiversity. �The highlands are being raised indiscriminately and bound to adversely impact Kaziranga�s ecology. Soil erosion from the highlands during floods will damage the wetlands. Protecting the natural highlands of Karbi Anglong should have been the bigger priority,� he said.
A forest official wishing anonymity said that the exercise of highland creation had more to do with the tendency of a section of officials to please their political masters. �Such a major intervention on Kaziranga�s fragile ecology � that too without any scientific assessment � is simply preposterous. Animals can adapt to floods which are also a natural means to maintain the balance of wildlife populations, and in any case, the Karbi Anglong highlands are always there,� he said.
Currently works on 33 new highlands are in progress. These are in addition to the already existing a hundred such elevated grounds.