Erosion, staff shortage threat to Assam''s national park

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Sukhendu Bhattacharya

Tinsukia (Assam), Feb 21 (PTI) Severe paucity of staffand large scale erosion has threatened the very existence ofthe Dibru Saikhowa national park in upper Assam, the secondlargest park in the state after Kaziranga and the only one tobe declared a biosphere reserve.

The total area of 765 sq km of the park which includesthe core and buffer areas comes only second to the over 800 sqkm Kaziranga national park a world heritage site which is hometo the famed and highly endangered one horned rhinos.

Park officials say severe staff shortage and erosionby the river Guijan which runs through the park has caused athreat to its existence since being declared a national parkin 1999.

While there was a requirement of at least 102 forestguards the existing strength was only 30 and in case offoresters there were only seven of them when the requirednumber was 31.

Unfortunately there are no no deputy rangers and noboatman to ferry the guards through the Guijan river to thepark.

Apart from the poor staff strength another majorthreat to the park is the existence of two villages of Laikaand Dadhia with the villagers exerting pressure on the corearea.

Tinsukia wildlife divisional forest officer VaibhavMathur says that the park is totally inundated during monsoonand the terrain being flat wild animals struggle to find highground.

Water of the rivers Lohit, Dihang, Dibang, Dibru andthe mighty Brahmaputra has being constantly eroding the park''score area, he says.

"Moreover the two village, inhabited by the tribalMising community, exert pressure on the core area in the formof firewood collection, timber felling and occasionalpoaching", says Mathur.

Fishing which is a way of life of Mising communityalso poses a severe stress on the habitat which is alsopristine bird area, the forest official said.

The fringe villages along the southern boundary takefull advantage of the innumerable rivulets to enter the parkand engage in fish collection, firewood as well asillegalities as timber felling, he points out.

"Lack of manpower to patrol the forests is a severesystemic inadequacy with which the wildlife manager managingthe Dibri Saikhowa park has to constantly deal with", he says.

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