GUWAHATI, Sept 20 - The State forest department has no answer to questions as to why it has decided to keep the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) open for visitors for an extended period of two months and who had prepared the proposal in this regard, if the RTI replies of the department in this connection are to be believed.
It is significant to note here that the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) conveyed its displeasure in this regard and requested the then Chief Wildlife Warden, Assam in 2016, to �rectify� the decision taken in favour of keeping the national park open for an extended period.
According to the August 4, 2018 replies sent by the Office of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife and Chief Warden (PCCF-WL and CW), Assam to RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury, there is no record available with it on the proposal submitted by the PCCF-WL and CW to the State government on keeping the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries open for an extended period.
One of the replies categorically informed Choudhury that records are not available with it on the issue concerning the proposal submitted by the PCCF-WL and CW to the State government on keeping the KNP open for visitors for an extended period. It also does not have any record on suggestions sought by the PCCF-WL and CW from the KNP director on keeping the national park open for an extended period of two months, said another reply.
It all started with the decision of the July 16, 2016 meeting held by the then Principal Secretary of the State for Environment and Forest. The minutes of that meeting stated in its decision number (xi) �PCCF (W/L) submit a proposal regarding extending the opening period for National Parks and Sanctuaries.�
Following this, there was reportedly tremendous pressure from the political bosses to the KNP officials to prepone the opening date of the KNP for the visitors to October 1/2 and to push back the date of closure of the national park till the ultimate date of May. Earlier, the practice was to open the KNP on November 1 and to keep it open till April 30. This was done keeping into consideration the well-being of wild animals of the national park and the interest of the visitors as well.
In the wake of this aberration, the NTCA conveyed its displeasure to the then Chief Wildlife Warden, Assam, Bikash Brahma, in its letter dated October 31, 2016. �While ecotourism is an important interpretive activity, advancing the opening time by a month is detrimental for both tourists and wildlife. It is therefore, requested to take appropriate steps to rectify this issue in the interest of people as well as wild animals,� the letter noted.