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Bid to restore status of Khalingduar reserve forest

By Jayanta Kumar Das

INDO-BHUTAN BORDER, Oct 10 � Situated along the remote Indo-Bhutan international border, the Khalingduar Reserve Forest (RF) under the Dhansiri Forest Division in Udalguri district has witnessed rapid deforestation and decimation of wildlife during the 1990s and into the first half of the new millennium.

The resultant man-elephant conflict following habitat shrinkage has assumed alarming proportions in the area, with seven elephants and eight persons having lost their lives in the past three months.

With an area of 7,033 hectares (location 26 52' 14E and 91 53' 01E/elevation 270 M from sea level), Khalingduar used to be the abode of many rare species of flora and fauna. The major wildlife included elephant, tiger, marble cat, buffalo, gaur, common langur, wild dog, barking deer, spotted deer, hog deer, chital, hyena, wild boar and common fox besides a varied avifauna.

Unfortunately, poor infrastructure and an alleged stepmotherly treatment by the State Government caused the decrease of the area of the reserve forest due to deforestation.

According to the local people, most of the forest resources were destroyed during the period from 1990 to 2003. The then Government gave a free hand to the surrendered ULFA militants who destroyed 80 to 90 percent of the forests and wildlife in the Bornadi Wildlife Sanctuary and Khalingduar RF. The southern side of the RF has been used as the grazing land for thousands of cattle causing irreparable damage both to animals and plants.

The two proposed reserve forests (PRFs) under the Nonoi range namely, Neulee and Kundarbill second and third additions attached to the Khalingdar RF have not been declared so for decades, resulting in heavy damage to the forest and wildlife. Thousands of hectares of land belonging to these PRFs have already been encroached on for tea plantation. Another plot of 2,500 bighas of forestland on the Samrang elephant corridor on the Neulee hills has been encroached on by a religious organisation for commercial use. This has blocked the age-old Samrang elephant corridor, forcing wild elephants to roam in the nearby villages.

Under a novel initiative to restore some normalcy, the administration, police and forest officials, as a part of massive awareness programme, arranged a Ganesh Puja inside the RF last month. Five truckloads of banana tree and sufficient quantities of salt were placed inside the forest for the wild elephants.

This has been the third such offering by the police and forest officials to the elephants. TR Pegu, SDPO, Bhergaon subdivision, in association with Debajit Deuri, SP, Udalguri, and Haladhar Kalita, Range Officer, Nonai Range Office under Khalingduar RF, took this initiative to mitigate the man-elephant conflict.

The programme was attended by representatives of various NGOs, organisations, associations including WWF (North Bank Landscape Programme), WTI, various All Bodo Students� Union (ABSU) committees, Green Valley Forest and Wildlife Protection Society, Tangla Press Club, Kalaigaon Press Club, NDFB (P), Bengali Students� Federation, etc.

A formal discussion followed at Nonai Forest Range Office later in the day where senior journalist Samudragupta Kashyap of Indian Express was the chief guest. Lauding the people�s efforts towards addressing the concerns of deforestation and encroachment resulting in the man-elephant conflict, he said that the Khalingduar RF and Bornadi Wildlife Sanctuary could easily become an international destination with proper infrastructure and exposure.

DN Hazarika, Circle Officer, Harisinga Revenue Circle, Tangla; Buddhi Ram Boro, president, Udalguri district ABSU; BK Olongbar, organising secretary of NDFB (P); Sanjoy Gogoi of WWF-India; Ratan Deka (former ULFA rebel); Jayanta Kumar Das, senior journalist of Udalguri; Haladhar Kalita, Range officer, Nonai; Diganta Sarma, secretary, Tangla Press Club; Narayan Deka, journalist; Ananta Bagh,CEO,Green Valley Forest and Wildlife Protection Society, among others, offered suggestions to end the man-elephant conflict in the district.

Ragen Gogoi, senior assistant manager of Nonai Tea Estate, anchored the discussion.

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Bid to restore status of Khalingduar reserve forest

INDO-BHUTAN BORDER, Oct 10 � Situated along the remote Indo-Bhutan international border, the Khalingduar Reserve Forest (RF) under the Dhansiri Forest Division in Udalguri district has witnessed rapid deforestation and decimation of wildlife during the 1990s and into the first half of the new millennium.

The resultant man-elephant conflict following habitat shrinkage has assumed alarming proportions in the area, with seven elephants and eight persons having lost their lives in the past three months.

With an area of 7,033 hectares (location 26 52' 14E and 91 53' 01E/elevation 270 M from sea level), Khalingduar used to be the abode of many rare species of flora and fauna. The major wildlife included elephant, tiger, marble cat, buffalo, gaur, common langur, wild dog, barking deer, spotted deer, hog deer, chital, hyena, wild boar and common fox besides a varied avifauna.

Unfortunately, poor infrastructure and an alleged stepmotherly treatment by the State Government caused the decrease of the area of the reserve forest due to deforestation.

According to the local people, most of the forest resources were destroyed during the period from 1990 to 2003. The then Government gave a free hand to the surrendered ULFA militants who destroyed 80 to 90 percent of the forests and wildlife in the Bornadi Wildlife Sanctuary and Khalingduar RF. The southern side of the RF has been used as the grazing land for thousands of cattle causing irreparable damage both to animals and plants.

The two proposed reserve forests (PRFs) under the Nonoi range namely, Neulee and Kundarbill second and third additions attached to the Khalingdar RF have not been declared so for decades, resulting in heavy damage to the forest and wildlife. Thousands of hectares of land belonging to these PRFs have already been encroached on for tea plantation. Another plot of 2,500 bighas of forestland on the Samrang elephant corridor on the Neulee hills has been encroached on by a religious organisation for commercial use. This has blocked the age-old Samrang elephant corridor, forcing wild elephants to roam in the nearby villages.

Under a novel initiative to restore some normalcy, the administration, police and forest officials, as a part of massive awareness programme, arranged a Ganesh Puja inside the RF last month. Five truckloads of banana tree and sufficient quantities of salt were placed inside the forest for the wild elephants.

This has been the third such offering by the police and forest officials to the elephants. TR Pegu, SDPO, Bhergaon subdivision, in association with Debajit Deuri, SP, Udalguri, and Haladhar Kalita, Range Officer, Nonai Range Office under Khalingduar RF, took this initiative to mitigate the man-elephant conflict.

The programme was attended by representatives of various NGOs, organisations, associations including WWF (North Bank Landscape Programme), WTI, various All Bodo Students� Union (ABSU) committees, Green Valley Forest and Wildlife Protection Society, Tangla Press Club, Kalaigaon Press Club, NDFB (P), Bengali Students� Federation, etc.

A formal discussion followed at Nonai Forest Range Office later in the day where senior journalist Samudragupta Kashyap of Indian Express was the chief guest. Lauding the people�s efforts towards addressing the concerns of deforestation and encroachment resulting in the man-elephant conflict, he said that the Khalingduar RF and Bornadi Wildlife Sanctuary could easily become an international destination with proper infrastructure and exposure.

DN Hazarika, Circle Officer, Harisinga Revenue Circle, Tangla; Buddhi Ram Boro, president, Udalguri district ABSU; BK Olongbar, organising secretary of NDFB (P); Sanjoy Gogoi of WWF-India; Ratan Deka (former ULFA rebel); Jayanta Kumar Das, senior journalist of Udalguri; Haladhar Kalita, Range officer, Nonai; Diganta Sarma, secretary, Tangla Press Club; Narayan Deka, journalist; Ananta Bagh,CEO,Green Valley Forest and Wildlife Protection Society, among others, offered suggestions to end the man-elephant conflict in the district.

Ragen Gogoi, senior assistant manager of Nonai Tea Estate, anchored the discussion.