GUWAHATI, July 21 - Denizens of Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNP and TR) have a virtual death trap laid out for them in the form of a practically unprotected, but pristine Bagser Reserve Forest (RF), lying between the National Park and the Karbi Anglong Hills.
For the Kaziranga National Park animals, this reserve forest is a major corridor for their to and fro movement between Kaziranga and the Karbi Anglong Hills. This corridor is used by them regularly. During the flood season, it witnesses a massive rush of the National Park animals, as this reserve forest is located at a higher elevation with lush vegetation.
Unfortunately, the disturbing factor is that there are reports of presence of armed members of some insurgent groups in this reserve forest. Nevertheless, there is no move, so far, on the part of those who matter in the Forest Department and the civil administration as well to effectively sanitise this forest of the insurgent elements and poachers.
Considering all these, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Nagaon Forest Division has urged the Conservator of Forest, Northern Assam Circle (NAC), Tezpur, to hand over Bagser Reserve Forest (RF) to Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNP and TR) authorities, considering its strategic importance in matters of wildlife protection.
The Nagaon DFO in his letter on the issue to the Conservator of Forest, NAC, Tezpur (dated March 17, 2020) cited poor infrastructure and deficient manpower of the Jakhalabandha Beat Office as the reason for making this request.
The manpower strength of the Beat Office is such that when any type of emergency arises, it needs to call for assistance of the staff of the Salona-based NAC office located on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra, the DFO said.
Bagser Reserve Forest is strategically important for the KNP and TR because of its location between the National Park on the northern side of National Highway-37 and Karbi Anglong Hills on the southern side of the same National Highway.
Regular surveillance of animals moving in this reserve forest area demands good infrastructure and manpower strength. But this reserve forest is placed under the Nagaon Territorial Division of the State Forest Department�s NAC, which in turn has placed the RF under the Jakhalabandha Beat Office.
The KNP and TR authorities have expressed their willingness to take over Bagser Reserve Forest, which has a total area of 3,367 hectares. This reserve forest was notified in 1919. The Menchang Camp, established in 2017, �is acting as a lone guard for the entire 3,367 hectares of pristine and beautiful forest,� said the Nagaon DFO in his above letter.
Following this, the matter was discussed at a meeting held among the Forest officials, police and civil administration at the Bagori office campus of the Western Range of KNP and TR on March 21, 2020.
The Officer-in-Charge of Jakhalabandha Police Station told the participants of the meeting that �some villagers had seen 3-4 armed persons having at least one automatic rifle. They are likely to belong to some extremist organisation in Karbi Anglong.�
He therefore requested the KNP and TR Director to bring Bagser Reserve Forest under the control of Burhapahar Range of Kaziranga Forest Division. The Director informed that he is pursuing the matter with the higher authorities.
The meeting resolved, among others, that the DFO, Eastern Assam Wildlife Division would submit the proposal for taking over the Bagser Reserve Forest, along with the proposal for construction of roads, while the KNP Director would pursue the matter of improving communication network in Bagser area with the higher authorities.
But, hitherto, the stance of the Forest Department top brass towards the demand of the KNP authorities on the Bagser Reserve Forest issue is learnt to be negative.