NILIP (KARBI-ANGLONG), Nov 11 - A never-before conservation saga unfolded at the remote Nilip area of Karbi Anglong district when an entire village located right in the middle of an elephant corridor voluntarily shifted to another area, honouring the elephants� right of way on the Kalapahar-Doigrong elephant corridor.
In all, 19 families of Ram Terang village were formally handed over the keys of their new homes today, facilitating their relocation into what has been developed as a model village (named New Ram Terang village) with pucca houses, a community hall, a fishery, and cropland, besides other amenities.
A school and a hospital are set to be added to it as part of the community-based conservation project of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) with assistance from the Assam Forest Department and Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) aimed at securing the elephant corridor.
�This is a landmark in the annals of conservation in the North East, with an entire village making way for elephants. This needs to be promoted as an ideal conservation model � especially in areas witnessing man-elephant conflict � that benefits both the elephant and communities,� Field Director MK Yadav said, lauding WTI for its endeavour.
Supported by the Elephant Family, IUCN-Netherlands and Japan Tiger Elephant Fund (JTEF), the initiative will help secure the corridor (located about 22 kms from Silonijan in Karbi Anglong on the Silonijan-Chokikhola tract) used by elephants to move between Kalapahar and the Doigrong Nambor Wildlife Sanctuary in the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape.
The village of Ram Terang, named after the head of the village, used to be at the centre of a raging man-elephant conflict with regular loss of crops and property of the villagers, besides human and elephant casualties.
�We are happy to enter our new homes, as it means an end to frequent elephant depredations. Moreover, we have far better amenities here than what we had earlier,� Bikram Teron (22) said.
During the second phase of the project, 23 families of Tokorangso village living in the same elephant corridor are to be resettled.
WTI executive director Vivek Menon, who attended today�s formal inauguration of the new village along with Sir Evelyn Rothschild, chief patron of Elephant Family, Ruth Powyes, CEO, Elephant Family, Pradip Singnar, Executive Member, Environment and Forests, KAAC, Jagdish Kishwan of WTI, Dr Abhijit Rabha, Chief Conservator of Forests, KAAC, Joyram Engleng, former CEM of KAAC, conservationist Ranjit Singh and Prof Parimal Bhattacharjee, attributed the successful initiative to the involvement of the local stakeholders.
�It is not relocation, but is a march to progress of the villagers. Both people and the elephants are gainers. This is community conservation in the real sense as we have made it a socially equitable model with thrust on skill development of the villagers,� he said.
Pradip Singnar, in his address, emphasised on the need of community participation for easing the man-animal conflict, saying that the Ramsing Terang model should be replicated across the State.
�We wanted the exercise to ensure a strong sense of belongingness among the villagers towards the relocation process, especially from the start of the construction of their new houses. It was in consultation with the villagers that local architects prepared the design for the construction of typical Karbi houses,� he said.
Village headman (gaonburha) Ramsing Terang also addressed the gathering.