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Monday, October 29, 2012

Plea to include parts of Karbi Anglong in KNP

SIVASISH THAKUR GuwAHATI, Oct 28 – The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has strongly recommended bringing a part of the contiguous belt of forests to the south of Kaziranga -- including the North Karbi Anglong wildlife sanctuary -- under Kaziranga Tiger Reserve for ensuring better protection to Kaziranga’s wildlife. Conservationists believe that the absence of security in the nearby Karbi Anglong forests which are widely used by animals to escape the recurring floods warrant such a move. The NTCA recommendation came after the devastating floods that had hit Kaziranga in last June-July that claimed over 600 animals. It was part of a number of short-term as well as long-term measures recommended by the NTCA and endorsed by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. The Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Jayanthi Natarajan, in her letter dated July 18, 2012, to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, endorsed the NCTA recommendations, saying that the measures required ‘urgent implementation’ by the State Government. The vulnerability of Kaziranga’s wildlife during floods was exposed again during September’s floods, with poachers taking advantage of the absence of security arrangements in the Karbi Anglong forests and massacring a number of rhinos in quick time. “Kaziranga’s ecosystem is highly dependent on preservation of forests in the Karbi Anglong hills along with the corridors that are crucial for the movement of animals,” Dr PJ Bora of WWF-India who has worked extensively under its Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Landscape Programme, says. In the past, the forests of Karbi Anglong and the grasslands of Kaziranga formed a single contiguous ecological belt with very few human habitations. But the gradual opening up of the area on the southern side of NH-37 resulted in expansion of settlements, tourist facilities and tea gardens – damaging the contiguity of the plains and the hills. As another long-term measure, the NTCA suggested carrying out a flood vulnerability analysis for the tiger reserve and surrounding areas in the GIS domain with an alert system. “It can also have collaboration with the Central Water Commission on a day-to-day basis during the flood season,” it noted. A crucial short-term measure ignored by the forest authorities related to Army deployment. The NTCA recommended deployment of Army personnel along with vehicles and boats from 4 Corps, Tezpur, to assist the tiger reserve management for a period of three months to deal with emergency situations. “Since the flood situation continues, it is important to engage the Army for assisting the park management up to October 31, 2012. The cost incurred towards this may be provided to the State through hundred per cent Central assistance under Project Tiger…a control room may also be set up at Bagori in this context, with an MoU executed between the Army and the Forest Department for joint action,” the NTCA noted. The short-term measures in the NTCA report which preceded an on-the-spot assessment visit by an NTCA team called for strict regulation of traffic on NH-37 by erecting sufficient number of barricades/speed-breakers, and 24X7 protection in the adjoining forests of Karbi Anglong during flood time. Another recommendation called for construction of flyovers on NH-37 in portions which were traditionally used by animals to cross over to the adjoining Karbi Anglong forests. Providing speed boats and inflatable rubber boats, providing at least five four-wheel drive jeeps along with funding support for their operation and maintenance; five trained koonki elephants for patrolling in the dried-up areas’ supply of medicine and doctors for field staff/local people and veterinary care to wild animals besides disposal of carcasses; constitution of a coordination committee to oversee rescue/relief operations and protection under the Chief Wildlife Warden with local NGO and NTCA representatives, Army, etc., supply of ration through Tiger Conservation Foundation; and preparing a ‘post-flood action plan’ to restore damaged infrastructure were some of the measures.

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