TEZPUR, July 26 - At a time when poaching of wildlife has assumed serious proportions, particularly for the world-famous one-horned rhinoceros, the villagers living in close proximity to the Sonai-Rupai Sanctuary along the Assam-Arunachal border area in Sonitpur district can justifiably feel proud that because of their sentimental attachment and obligation towards the sanctuary, the wildlife and greenery is still existing there amidst a number of constraints.
The sanctuary is a protected area covering 220 sq km, located some 52 km away from the district headquarters Tezpur along the foothills of the Himalayan range. The area was declared a sanctuary in 1998 and has dense forest and wildlife like elephant, tiger, lesser cats, elephant, wild boar, hog deer and barking deer, white winged wood duck, hornbill, pelican and different kinds of migratory birds, reptiles like python, Russell�s viper, etc. The sanctuary finds a place of pride in the itinerary of tourists. It is pertinent to mention here that the area considered a wildlife hub in this region is well-linked via air and surface communication. It is a major attraction for the tourists due to the presence of the Indian bison and the elephant.
Interacting with this correspondent, the residents of about 50 villages including Jiagabharau 1, 2 and 3, Rikamari 1 and 2, Kothalguri, Dhukubasti, Charidoria, Bengenajuli, Naharani, Ajarbari, Rupajuli, Owbari, Ramnathpur etc., who have mostly been depending upon the Sonai-Rupai Sanctuary for years said that though a nearly two km of the sanctuary is an eco-sensitive zone, the ongoing construction work of a boundary wall by the Army in the entire area has posed a serious threat to biodiversity. A forest official, who didn�t wish to be identified, expressing total dissatisfaction over the Army�s anti-wildlife activities said that according to the Supreme Court, no construction work can be done in any eco-sensitive zone. �However, violating all these norms, the Army has been constructing the boundary wall, blocking the wildlife corridors,� the forest official alleged.
A social worker of the area, Rathindra Kumar Dey informed that every year, wild elephants either break down the boundary wall constructed by the Air Force in Tatshal Basti area or damage the dwellings of the poor villagers of the area. �Seeking the Government�s intervention in this regard, we have already submitted several representations to the department concerned, but no result has been achieved till date. Still we are optimistic that in the greater interest of the of wildlife and biodiversity, one day matters will be set right,� Dey added.