Tuesday, February 23, 2010

India: Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary to see the light of day

From our Correspondent

MANGALDAI, Feb 14: Nol gahori or pigmy hog (sus salvanius or porcula salvania)- is the smallest and the rarest wild suid in the world and endangered species of khagarikata shaha or hispid hare (caprolagus hispiudus)- is one of the rarest animals of the world. The pigmy hog is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the world, which can only be found in two protected areas of Assam- Manas National Park (MNP) and Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS). Similarly, the BWS is also known as one of the few habitats of the hispid hare all over the world. And significantly both the two protected areas are under the territorial jurisdiction of the BTAD. But is any one in our country, State or the territorial council of Bodoland really cares or worried for Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS)? Have the Forest and Wildlife Department taken any initiative for its conservation or protection not to speak of its proper maintenance?

Earlier known as the Barnadi Reserve Forest, this protected area was upgraded as a wildlife sanctuary way back in 1980. Situated in the foot hills of Himalayas, bordering the Southern boundary of Bhutan and in the Northwestern part of Udalguri district in Assam with an area of 28.22 sq km, BWS has been internationally known as the abode of the critically endangered species of nol gahori and khagarikata shaha. Besides these two rare species, the other animals found in the sanctuary are Indian elephants, tiger, leopard, slow lories, capped langur, barking deer, gaur, Himalayan black bear, wild boar, pangolin, panti coloured flying squirrel, Assamese macaque, peacocks, eurasian otter, fishing cat, porcupine, hornbills, etc.

This protected area of BWS has been facing some major problems like severe biotic interference, inadequate infrastructure, acute shortage of man power, no permanent Range Officer, lack of awareness among the people of the locality, encroachment of forest lands, and lack of proper communication systems, etc. which have been posing a serious threat to the sanctuary. Another major problem that has been faced by the forest staff is that in BWS there is no facility for potable drinking water and they have to walk a distance of more than five km twice a day to have drinking water. The BWS is no longer a spot for attraction of tourists both for the domestic and foreign due to these problems, as tourists hardly include the name of BWS in their itinerary. And perhaps the tour operators or travel agencies have also no idea about the exotic virgin beauty of this sanctuary. What is more interesting to note that in 1992, the State Government in the name of rehabilitation of some misguided youths, gave a free hand to these youths who caused a major irreparable damage to the BWS by illegally felling the trees. This unabated destruction took place under the very nose of the officials of Forest Department, police and civil administration that too in broad daylight while a section of timber smugglers too joined their hands in the deforestation operation.

However, BWS- the most neglected wildlife sanctuary in the country, which is also the only wildlife sanctuary in Udalguri district of BTAD, is going to see the light of the day with a recent visit of a high-level official team. Udalguri Deputy Commissioner Suttumali Subbaiah Meenakshi Sundaram accompanied by Divisional Forest Officer of Dhansiri Forest Division Bankim Sarma, prominent activists of WWF, a team of mediapersons led by Jayanta Kumar Das, office-bearers of Dimakuchi unit of All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) and several wildlife activists made a on the spot visit to this protected area to look into the problems that have almost crippled it. Though Divisional Forest Officer of Dhansiri Forest Division Bankim Sarma, informed the visiting officials that he had taken up a few schemes like arrangement of water in the sanctuary, repair of staff quarters, installation of 15 sets of wireless sets and powerful search lights but he also stated that Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary had never been allotted sufficient fund allocation for its infrastructure development. On hearing this sorry state of affair in this sanctuary- the pride of Udalguri Deputy Commissioner SS Meenakshi Sundaram and the wildlife activists as well as the visiting mediapersons made a request before the representatives of WWF, India to take up some schemes immediately for the development of the sanctuary. Both the WWF officials agreed to take up the matter and said that they would soon meet to chalk out future course of action in finding a solution to the problems of the sanctuary. The visiting officials also requested the office-bearers of Dimakuchi unit of ABSU to take a lead role in launching awareness programmes among the people living in the fringe areas for the conservation of flora and fauna so that this protected area could be transformed into a beautiful spot of attraction for tourists and common people.



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