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JFMC Bhairabkunda: a story of hope

By Correspondent

KALAIGAON, Jan 4 � In a development that holds out hopes for long-term conservation amid the gloom of large-scale deforestation in Assam specially in violence-infested Udalguri district, villagers of six villages on the India-Bhutan border at Bhairabkunda joined hands successfully regenerating a stretch of barren sandy forest land. The results of this quiet community initiative done under Joint Forest Management Committee (JFMC) are evident with the regenerated forest expanse of 5 sq km already emerging as a shelter of wild animals and birds.

The 22.24 sq km Bhairabkunda Reserve Forest (RF) was left without a single tree by the early 1980s due to rampant illegal logging. An afforestation drive by the Forest Dept in association with the people of six villages namely � Sonaigaon, Bhairabpur, Goroimari, Sapangaon, No 1 Mazargaon and No 2 Mazargaon started in April 2007 and within five years a spectacular man-made forest known as JFMC forest has grown up at Sapangaon with the conversion of a plot of barren sandy lands measuring 500 hectares to a new picturesque forest with the planting of Khoir, Gamari, Simul, Sisum etc., near the Dhansiri river, very close to Bhutan and Arunachal.

Conservation activists hope that the place would draw the attention of tourists all over the world, if the Government develops the infrastructure of the area. The regenerated forest land now has rich vegetation and has given shelter to wild elephants, deer, monkeys, leopards, bears etc., beside various species of flora. A small river with several canals � a few of them man-made, runs throughout the forest, providing replenishment for the green cover. They have already planted more than ten lakh saplings in the man-made forest.

Nature-loving office bearers of JFMC, namely Esmail Daimari, Elision Daimari, Lenin Daimari, Bimal Daimari, Purna Daimari, Atul Basumatari, Prenson Daimari, Pilup Daimari, Alfred Daimari, Helena Basumatari and Someswari Daimari believe that with some support from the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), the area can be developed as an ideal eco- tourism hub. With rivers criss-crossing the verdant Assam-Bhutan-Arunachal border and the Bhairabkunda Reserve Forest providing some undulating trekking trails, there is a definite scope for promoting tourism. Although the forest has been recognised as an ideal place for shooting of films or documentaries etc, but infrastructure bottlenecks like absence of light, toilet or accommodation etc., have compelled producers or interested persons to go to other locations. Nature-loving people of Udalguri including members of the JFMC hope that the BTC authority, district administration, Forest department would come forward for accommodation and sanitation facilities in the greater interest of eco-tourism prospect in the district.

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