Jorhat, Oct. 19: The Assam forest department has taken up an ambitious plan to relocate 19 families of Karbi Anglong district’s Ram Terang village, which lies on the Kalapahar-Daigrung elephant corridor.
It would be the first move in the entire Northeast to relocate an entire village in an effort to conserve wildlife.
“Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council has almost completed the paperwork to relocate these 19 families, comprising 109 people, to an area outside the corridor. The village would be transformed into a model habitat where people would be totally self-dependent. We have plans to make the village itself a tourist attraction,” a top forest official told The Telegraph today.
The move will ensure that the Kalapahar reserve forest is connected to Nambor-Daigrung wildlife sanctuary and clear the corridor which is frequently used by elephants to move from Nambor-Daigrung wildlife sanctuary to Kaziranga National Park via Bijuli reserve forest. This further connects to Bokial and Behora reserve forests along with Kaziranga.
“The connectivity between Kaziranga and Karbi Anglong landscapes will be improved through acquisition of the Kalapahar–Daigrung corridor and we are working on a concrete long-term plan to relocate and rehabilitate the village, which is at present located in the middle of the corridor near Silonijan,” the forest official said.
An increasing demand for land to be used for rubber and tea plantations and unsustainable extraction of forest resources over the years has resulted in habitat fragmentation in Karbi Anglong, the largest district of the state with an area of nearly 10,434 square km.
Added to this is an expanding human population that is one of the major causes of the human-elephant conflict in this region, which results in the death and injury of a number of people and elephants every year.
One-fifth of India’s elephant population is found in Assam and the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong elephant reserve is one among five in the state. A high priority area for Asian elephant conservation, the reserve is home to around 2,000 pachyderms.
The forest official said the relocation process started about three years back and several self-employment schemes had been launched with the help of various NGOs, especially International Fund for Animal Welfare-Wildlife Trust of India.
“Eco-development support is one such confidence-building activity that has already been initiated in the village. Handloom kits and piglets were distributed among the villagers to make them self-employed. Alternative livelihoods will help boost the income of the villagers and further reduce their dependence on the forest. We are also helping people procure bank loans to start cottage industries,” the forest official said.
A forest official in Karbi Anglong said efforts were also on to make other villages located near the elephant corridor more self-reliant so that these did not depend on forest resources. “Villages like Ram Killing and Sar Kro are located near the corridor and the villagers are in constant conflict with elephants. We have been holding regular awareness meetings with the villagers and have been frequently organising free health camps to gain their confidence. We have also been paying for the damages caused by elephants to these villagers so that they do not attack the animals in retaliation.”