GUWAHATI, April 18 - RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury has questioned the sagacity behind the latest spree in indiscriminately building highlands inside the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) in the name of providing shelter to the wild animals of the National Park during the flood season.
Speaking to this newspaper, Choudhury said that a disturbing trend to provide the wild animals of the national park with highlands has now been observed. The national park is also a tiger reserve and the home to the world�s single largest population of the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros. The national park is known for harbouring high densities of the great Indian rhinoceros, Indian elephant, Royal Bengal tiger, wild water buffalo and swamp deer. Besides, it is a world heritage site.
Criticizing the State Forest Department�s stand on the issue of building highlands inside the national park, Choudhury said that the Forest Department has been turning a blind eye to the facts that the Karbi Anglong Hills, adjacent to the national park, serve the Kaziranga wild animals during the flood season as the natural shelters and to reach these shelters, the wild animals of the national park need to cross the National Highway-37.
But these days, rise in the load of vehicles on the National Highway-37 and the increased stone mining activities on Karbi Anglong Hills have been disturbing and proving fatal for the wild animals of the national park.
Ignoring these developments, the Forest Department has been laying stress on indiscriminately building highlands inside the national park, which do not conform to the principles of environment conservation.
The national park needs the floods annually for its sustenance. Floods act as a mechanism to control the wildlife population in the KNP, especially for its mega herbivores and carnivores. In fact, over the centuries, the wild animals of Kaziranga have evolved with the floods, no matter whether the floods behave in a harsher or a milder manner for the wildlife population of the park. When too many of the wild animals are killed by the floods, the remaining animals of their species compensate the loss by temporarily increasing the propagation rate. Whenever very few of them die due to the floods, their population adjusts accordingly by regulating the growth rates. Such is the intricate intelligence bestowed upon these species by nature, said Choudhury.
The rampant construction activities with heavy earth moving machinery and dumpers are feared to have an adverse impact on the delicate ecological balance of the national park. The logic put forth by the officials of Assam Forest Department is that these highlands will save the wild animals from the ravaging floods by offering shelters to them during the deluges. It is also argued that since Karbi Anglong Hills side is occupied by human beings and illegal stone quarries, or, mines, these highlands inside Kaziranga will compensate the loss of access to foothills of Karbi Anglong.
But the question that needs to be asked is whether floods of river Brahmaputra are really that fatal for the wildlife. If the answer is yes, then, long back the rhino should have vanished from the floodplains of Assam. Clearly this has not happened and over the years, rhino population has been on the rise.
It is not clear if these highlands will really benefit the wild animals. But, going by the quantum of earth work done, the contractors seem to have benefited greatly. Conservation in places like Kaziranga should be guided by ecological principles and not by the economics of contractors, Choudhury said.