GUWAHATI, Sept 5 � Various organizations including conservation NGOs today urged Union Minister of State (independent charge) for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar to intervene in checking the unabated poaching of rhinos and other wildlife, besides large-scale deforestation in Assam.
Javadekar, who is on a two-day visit to the State, had an interactive session with public representatives and wildlife activists at the conference hall of BSF Camp at Rani on the city outskirts today.
The participating representatives from different bodies which included the All Assam Students� Union (AASU), Aaranyak, WWF India, among others, expressed serious concern over the failure of the Assam Government in preserving and protecting the flora and fauna of the State.
�Poaching of rhinos, especially in Kaziranga � the supposedly well-protected forest of Assam � has been rampant, with the pachyderms being butchered every other day. This puts the conservation initiatives of the State Government in poor light. Similarly, the grave issue of large-scale deforestation and encroachment across the State has failed to move the State Government. We want the Centre to intervene and facilitate long-term conservation measures � not just in Kaziranga but across all wildlife habitats,� AASU adviser Dr Samujjal Bhattacharya said.
The AASU also demanded that the Centre set up a research centre for medicinal plants which abound in Assam.
Meanwhile, the Assam Forest Department today sought a special annual package of Rs 50 crore from the Centre for conservation and management of forests.
�Assam has a vast network of five National Parks (including two World Heritage Sites), 20 wildlife sanctuaries, three tiger reserves, 2 biosphere reserves and six elephant reserves, besides 300-odd reserve forests. Therefore, the State deserves a special package of Rs 50 crore annually for conservation purposes,� a memorandum submitted by Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain to Javadekar said.
The memorandum also called for a Project Rhino (with an outlay of Rs 500 crore initially), as �the management and conservation of the species has certain challenges that do not seem to be applicable for other species, and especially poaching and international trade call for cooperation at global level.�
Further, it said, there was a need for an Externally Aided Project of Rs. 500-1000 crore over the next five years for the wildlife sector in Assam.
Some other demands of the State Government included setting up of a regional centre of the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, at Guwahati; a corpus fund of Rs 25 crore for quick administration of ex-gratia and other compensation to be paid to the victims of man-animal conflict; a special package of Rs 30 crore for Assam State Zoo; developing district/forest division-wise infrastructure including veterinary care for flood-affected animals; a rehabilitation package for shifting the villages from the proposed addition areas of the Kaziranga; funding of the proposed special force comprising 100 trained personnel from among the local population around Kaziranga by the National Tiger Conservation Authority; a special annual grant of Rs 100 crore for Kaziranga Tiger Conservation Foundation; etc.
The memorandum also urged Javadekar to use his good office to persuade the Ministry of Defence, Govt of India, to allow flying of the UAVs (Unmanned aerial vehicles) in Kaziranga.
Our Kohora Correspondent Adds: After giving a patient hearing to all the stake holders of Kaziranga with regard to Eco sensitive zone, erosion, and frequent killings of rhinos, Javadekar assured the people of Kaziranga that mere declaration of Eco sensitive zone would not deprive the fringe villages of Kaziranga National Park.
Accepting the memorandums from various organisations like Kaziranga Wildlife Society, Kaziranga Development and Jeep Safari Association, Kaziranga Foundation , Union Forest Minister said that in the name of eco sensitive zone, no existing income earning activities would be abruptly stopped , provided they did not negatively affect the environmental conditions. Javadekar further said that he would talk to C.B.I. over the rhino killing incidents and would take up the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.