GUWAHATI, Jan 27 � In an instance typical of short-sighted government decisions undermining environmental concerns, the recent raising of the Chamota-Pobitora PWD road without leaving sufficient outlet for floodwater to pass has cast a shadow on the long-term well-being of Pobitora wildlife sanctuary.
The thoughtless exercise done without consulting the Forest authorities has caused floodwater to remain stagnant inside the sanctuary � a critical rhino habitat � for over four months. This has resulted in substantial damage to the sanctuary�s grassland � a development that would jeopardize the rhino�s future unless checked immediately.
While floodwater from the Brahmaputra inundates the sanctuary every year, replenishing the grassland as well as the waterbodies (beels) of the sanctuary, last year�s floodwater stayed stagnant inside the sanctuary from June to September � a development described by conservationists as ominous for Pobitora.
�Floods are essential for replenishment of the wetlands and for regeneration of grass but it would have a debilitating impact if the sanctuary remains waterlogged for several months. Earlier, the water used to recede within a week which is essential for Pobitora�s ecosystem to survive,� Range Officer Mukul Tamuly told The Assam Tribune.
Tamuly said that the elevation of the road that runs along the western boundary of Pobitora (the Mayong-Pomapur portion) without leaving enough outlets for the water to pass was bound to have perilous consequences for the rhino-land.
�We took up the matter with the PWD authorities several times, urging them to provide some spacious water outlets/culverts but nothing has materialized till date. The prolonged waterlogging following the last floods has already affected the grassland, which is showing clear signs of deterioration,� Tamuly said.
Pobitora which shelters 84 rhinos within its tiny 38.19-sq km area is already grappling with problems of food scarcity for the herbivores, with rhinos often straying out of the protected area in search of food.
Besides, the presence of domestic cattle in large numbers inside the protected area remains another big concern, aggravating the problem of food shortage. Invasive weeds, too, have eroded a portion of its grassland. Under the circumstances, any further damage to the grassland is something that this prime rhino habitat can ill-afford.
Rhinos apart, Pobitora is home to a number of mammals, reptiles and birds � many of which are grassland dwellers.