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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Farmers training on quality planting material and crop production at Lakhimpur in Darrang

The Energy and Resourses Institute (TERI) North East Regional Centre,Guwahati organized a day long farmers training programme at Lakhimpur pukhuri (Balipota) in Darrang on December 20 in association with Green Society,Udalguri..The training programme was held at Gaon Panchayat Bhawan,The theme of the programme was focused on Quality planting material and crop production under Technology Mission – Mini Mission. Introductory speech was given by Jitu Moni Deka,Secretary,Green Society,Udalguri. The training programme was inaugurated by Makani Saikia,President,Lakhimpur GP at 11 AM. She in her speech requested farmers to plant banana,orange etc in their vaccant plots of lands. Senior journalists of Udalguri district namely Jayanta Kumar Das,also the Hony. Wildlife Warden of Assam and Kanneswar Deka also spoke on the occasion requesting farmers to start plantation of horticultural saplings for economic growth. Former ACS officer Dipankar Saharia, Coordinator, TERI North East Regional Centre, Guwahati attended the programme as the chief guest. Addressing participating progressive farmers,Saharia requested them to take up horticultural activities not as government schemes but as their own project. He also advised farmers to change out look and to encourage horticulture or agriculture on commercial basis. According to him separate plots of lands must be utilized for various horticultural items like orange,bamboo,banana,peeper etc for better results. He advised farmers not to use harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides but organic manures. Krishna Ranjan Deka,Dharanidhar Nath, Suren Barua (Zilla Parishad Councillor) also addressed people. More than hundred progressive farmers from various places of Kalaigaon constituency took part in the training programme.
It needs mention that Green Society,Udalguri has been formed for the promotion and conservation of flora and fauna and to create awareness among people for increasing scientific horticultural production. Three thousand hybrid disease resistant banana plants and one thousand five hundred hybrid orange saplings were distributed among farmers at the end.

Two months old elephant calf rescued near Arunachal border

A two months old wild elephant calf (male) was rescued which had been found near Assam-Arunachal border on December 17. According to information the Sarkari Gaonburah of Sikaridanga village informed forest officials of Mazbat Range Office about the presence of a lone wild elephant calf in the morning of December 17. A forest rescue team headed by MP Sarma, ACF, Dhansiri Forest Division rescued the calf on the same day at 12.30 pm. Another rescue team headed by Dr.Abhijit Bhawal of Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre,(WTI) Kaziranga arrived at Mazbat in the evening to take care of the calf. According to them the calf could have been accidentally sliding down from Arunachal hills. Rescue team unsuccessfully tried to reunite the calf with its mother in the night and in the morning hours of December 18 at Dimachang and Sikaridanga near Arunachal hills. Neither its mother nor its herd could be located. Finally the calf was taken to Kaziranga Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre of WTI in the afternoon of December 18. Dr.Rathin Barman,Director,of the rescue centre told this correspondent on December 22 that the baby elephant was in good health responding to its treatment.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Unabated deaths of wild elephants continue in Udalguri

The carcass of a 80 years old wild tusker has been found at Phulungjhar Kolbari of Udalguri district near Indo-Bhutan border at 12.30 pm on December 14,taking death toll of wild elephants to 8 in 2012.The dead body bore no injury marks and eye witnesses say that the tusker was limping on its legs the previous day. Forest officials claimed to have rescued both the tusks. MP Sarma, ACF, Dhansiri Forest Division,who attended the post postmortem on December 15 told this correspondent that the tusker had been blind with right side eye and its right side hind leg was 35 CM shorter than other legs. According to him old age could have been a cause but did nor rule out poisoning. He said viscera of the carcass had been sent for forensic test. Nature loving people,media fraternity and environmental NGOs of the district namely- Green Valley Forest and Wildlife Protection Society,Nonaipar and Green Society,Udalguri have expressed concern at regular deaths of wild elephants and human beings. So far nine people and eight wild elephants have lost lives in the district during 2012. Bankim Sarma,DFO,Dhansiri Forest Division,Udalguri told this correspondent that he had urgently placed the matter before Khampa Borgayari, Deputy Chief,BTC and Girish Chandra Basumatari,CCF,BTC for deployment of more forest staff in Udalguri district. According to him BTC authority had agreed to provide 5 KM long Solar fencing at vulnerable places to check man-elephant conflict.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chasing away wild elephants near Indo-Bhutan border

A massive operation to chase away wild elephants from villages of Udalguri district was launched from Paneri tea garden at 10.30 am on December 10. Dhansiri Forest Division organized the operation at the direction of Bonjar Daimari,Deputy Speaker, BTC,Santias Kunjur,EM,BTC and Rihon Daimari,MLA,Udalguri.Forest personal from Mazbat and Nonoi Range Offices,Bornadi Wildlife Sanctuary and Division head office headed by MP Sarma,ACF,Dhansiri Forest Division launched the operation in association with police and civil administration headed by DN Hazarika,Circle Officer,Harisinga Revenue Circle,Tangla. The massive operation was also supported by senior managers of Paneri and Bhutiachang tea gardens. More than five thousand villagers joined the operation to chase away 25 wild elephants to Bhutan hills unhurt.Dy Speaker,Bonjar Daimari personally supervised the operation with EM Santias Kunjur with the help of JCB and tractors. The breath taking operation was completed within four hours. Four domestic elephants namely- Moon,Joon, Rangilee and Rajdhan also took part in the operation. It needs mention that man-elephant conflict has taken a very serious turn in the district causing deaths of 9 people and 7 wild elephants during last months. A five years old boy was killed at 4.30 am on December 10 at Gitibari near Paneri.Rapid destruction of forests and encroachment on forest lands virtually rendered wild animals specially elephants homeless in the district. Speaking to this correspondent after the operation, Bonjar Daimari told that he would press for immediate deployment of more young and local forest personnel in Udalguri to check unabated poaching and tree felling in the district.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wild elephant census on Indo-Bhutan border: A real life drama

Enumeration of wild elephants was on in the remote forests on India-Bhutan international border in February 2011. Bankim Sarma,DFO,Dhansiri Forest Division,Udalguri has been known for his experience and expertize on wild elephant census during his tenure as a DFO in Kaziranga NP. It was my pleasure to meet him on many occasions to discuss various topics like tranquilizing and trans location of rhino and tigers;inter-relationship of tigers and leopards etc. It was known from him that elephant census or enumeration works were on in 22 blocks in Bornadi WLS and other reserved forests in Udalguri district. I decided to experience wild elephant census myself. It must be mentioned here that elephant census or enumeration is a difficult and lengthy process, Unlike rhinos or tigers wild elephants never stay in a particular area for a long period. They could move away fast to other places in search of food and shelter. Forest officials engaged in enumeration are divided into many groups thereby working at many places in a time frame. Frequent movements of wild elephants of course pose hurdles like double counting. Movements of wild elephants on either sides of the Indo-Bhutan international border also pose problem. Forest personnel engaged in elephant enumeration are given proper prior training to overcome such problems. Details of wild elephants,herds, numbers,sex,dung,size of the tusk etc are properly recorded so as to check double counting. Enumeration staff tour their blocks with a seven days schedule. I decided not to disclose my plan to DFO in advance. Thought,it might pose difficulty in their normal census schedule. I started my journey alone from my home town Kalaigaon in a Maruti Alto in the morning of February 26. It was a ninety minutes journey from Kalaigaon to Samrang via Tangla-Paneri-Bhutiachang (55 km).Forest Officer Kushal Deka greeted me with a smile at Samrang at 10 am. He was ready for his days activity along with other three. Leaving my vehicle there I joined them and started moving on foot towards unfamiliar terrains,rivers and streams. On way we noticed Neewly PRF (Proposed Reserve Forest)being encroached by people. An SSB camp was established there too. I was told that government had alloted nearly 450 bigha forest lands to a religious organization which in turn caused massive deforestation near Indo-Bhutan international border. Serious enough, the organization actually encroached more than 5000 bigha pristine forest lands (once belonged to Neewly PRF).I realized,the serious impact of the construction of buildings and dairy farms and establishment of the SSB camps had virtually blocked the age old “Samrang Elephant Corridor” forcing wild elephants to roam in the villages. Yes,it was the root cause of so called “Man-Elephant Conflict” in the district. There had been only excitement and thrill to move ahead on the dry beds of so many zigzag streams and rivers in the midst of tall grasses and forests! Far away from hue and cries of towns,undisturbed by mobile ring tones,we were moving ahead for hours looking for wild elephants,sometimes greeted by pairs of horn bills. Further away we noticed water filled holes made by wild elephants on the dry and sandy river beds to quench their thirst. Beautiful Kalanadi greeted us at 12.30 pm after walking over 6 km from Samrang. Two forest workers were left there to prepare lunch and we three let ourselves get lost among the untrodden ways in the midst of deep and dark Samrang forest. “What is that?”,someone shouted to break the silence,and we saw a narrow man made track ahead. Forest officer Deka told us that the track had been made by poachers and anti-social elements. Yes,he was right. Just a few meters ahead we saw a three feet deep and eight feet long man made trench where poachers take shelter. Watch showed 1.30 pm. The sudden sounds of movement alerted us. Could that be poachers? No,we could not send any messages to forest camp because of no network coverage. We did not carry guns but two packets of crackers with us. Finally we decided what to do and burst two crackers to warn poachers and turned back to retreat. Wow! So many plants of Ow-tenga (Dilleniaceae) ahead! Yes larger sized tengas were very attractive and I picked up two for my wife. Talking about lunch with local chicken and boiled pork we followed our old track. So on a sudden a very familiar scent of animal and loud sound in the form of trumpet stopped us three. Yes,fresh dungs of elephants told us that they were very close. A herd of wild elephants blocked our track back to open. We could hear our hearts beating very fast. I realized what terrible had happened!The bursting of crackers to warn poachers acted as a boomerang. The sound had actually alerted all the wild elephants of the herd and they just assembled blocking all our hope. Without a single word we started our retreat through deep and thorny creepers of Samrang forest. The sky was cloudy and the time was 3 pm of a short winter day. I never knew what it had reacted on others,but I just felt that the time was terrible. And may be against my will I threw away the two Ow-tengas and replaced my camera with them. Following a track without GPS inside the deep and dark forest was impossible as the day was cloudy. I tried to switch on my GPS,but to my utter disappointment I saw that the GPS was out of battery. How to track ways to open in a 10 km wide forest within just an hour? Otherwise we would be lost in the darkness. But that was not so important to us, important was to get out of the forest. We just realized that we had been just moving deep inside the forest. As we had been moving ahead,thorny creepers started drawing designs on our sweaters and jackets. But who were those springing away seeing us? Yes,the deers hiding under bushes perhaps mistook us for poachers. Perhaps you all too,while going through my narration,realize our position that time. Actually we lost our hope of life. I remembered my wife and two sons. Would I ever meet them?It was 3.30 pm. Moving forward away,we arrived at a small open space with a big and tall tree. As asked Sanju climbed the tall tree and declared that he could see a water tank at a distance. How could a water tank be there!But without exchanging a single word we started following that direction. And within a few minutes we could make our way to an open place. But the place was quite unfamiliar to us. When asked a wood cutter told that it was Segunbari SSB camp, just 10 KM away from Samrang SSB camp. But how could that be?We realized that we had been moving inside Samrang forest for several hours. The worst was yet to come. We left behind two forest workers inside deep forest for ourto prepare our lunch. I also left behind my vehicle at Samrang. Our tired limbs just refused to follow our command to move ahead. Mobile network too did not support us. Finding no alternative we just continued our journey back to square one by following another route by a stream. Suddenly we noticed a wild tusker coming slowly towards us from the other side of the stream. We knew that it was a loner,very unpredictable. But we could never increase our pace due to our immobilized legs. Compelled to ignore the wild tusker's presence, we slowly moved forward. Perhaps the tusker too realized our condition and allowed us to moved on undisturbed. By the time it was getting dark.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Deployment of Army & SSB demanded to stop unabated felling of trees in Khalingduar RF

Khalingduar Reserve Forest in Udalguri district (Assam,India) has witnessed severe destruction of forests along with the presence of hundreds of wild elephants damaging paddy and houses of villagers. Although the matters have taken serious turn,forest department with just seven or eight people could neither chase away wild elephants nor stop smugglers involved in poaching or tree felling. According to eye witnesses large numbers of smugglers have regularly been entering Khalingduar RF ( mostly since November 2012) and fell down more than hundred most valuable trees. Information says,all the smugglers used to enter into the forest at 5 am equipped with powered saws to move out in the afternoon with logs without any resistance. Badly effected areas like Sidabagan,Chariali,Western part (where wild elephant killed a forest person last year)etc are just one or half a KM away from the Nonai Range Office. It needs mention that members of Green Valley Forest and Wildlife Protection Society (a local environmental NGO) have been guarding the reserve forest for last two years voluntarily,without any types of financial support.They had been a great help to forest department in checking poaching or tree felling. But none can offer free services ever. It so happened last moth that members of the NGO had been busy with other tourism related activities in the district. Taking advantage of their absence smugglers or poachers immediately swung in to action felling as many as hundred valuable trees inside the RF.When contacted,H Kalita,Range Officer, Nonai Range said that due to insufficient forest forces it was difficult to guard a large reserve forest. According to him out of 18 working staff in the range,only 7-8 are engaged to guard the forest. He also added that all the 7-8 numbers of forest staff had been busy to chase away herds of wild elephants causing damage of houses and crops in several villages namely- Gejerkuchi,Dhopguri, Amguri, Gitibari, Paneri during November this year. The wild elephants have destroyed several houses and damaged paddy of nearly 500 bighas. Forest officials,a few leading media persons and villagers with the help of 3 Kunki elephants tried to chase away such a herd on the night of December 1 at Gitibari near Paneri. But the elephants played a game of hide -&-seek. Forest officials tried to push back the elephants along the Nonoi river bed,but the clever animals made their ways through the tea gardens of Paneri TE likely to create more trouble in the coming days. Nature loving people of the district,environmental NGOs like Green Valley Forest and Wildlife Protection Society,Nonaipar;Green Society,Udalguri and media fraternity of the district urge the government immediately to rush more forest forces to the district; to deploy Army and SSB stationed in the district to check poaching and tree felling and to encourage members of the voluntary organizations working for the conservation of flora and fauna of Udalguri.