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Dhabas under scanner

- Udalguri grapples with man-animal conflict; Jorhat forest cell tries to save migratory birds

Jorhat, Nov. 18: The Jorhat forest department will launch an awareness drive among roadside dhabas by involving NGOs to ask the eatery owners not to buy migratory birds from poachers who at night trap and kill the birds that swarm to waterbodies along the Brahmaputra in winter.

Vast stretches of waterbodies in Jorhat, including Majuli island and Sivasagar district along the Brahmaputra in Upper Assam are home to nearly 200 species of birds that include greater adjutant storks and swamp partridges.

Every winter, thousands of migratory birds of different species, including grey and white pelicans and Siberian cranes, flock to these areas from Europe and far east Asian countries to beat the biting cold.

The birds’ habitats stretch over an area from the Kaziranga National Park in the west to Panidihing in Sivasagar district in the east. The areas in Jorhat district lie in the middle of the entire 200km area on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra which is considered a bird corridor.

Jorhat forest range officer Pankaj Kalita said sensitisation about bird protection among the villagers near the beels (natural waterbodies) over the last few years by the department jointly with local NGOs had led to considerable decrease in incidents of poaching.

Kalita said in recent years, the department had received active cooperation from people of the villages near the beels in preventing catching and killing of birds. He said the villagers had caught persons a number of times when they were trying to catch birds at night by using nets and also by poisoning the water.

Awareness drives by NGOs by taking out bicycle rallies and participation of students with placards and banners in support of bird conservation in villages near waterbodies had paid off.

Kalita said despite all these the threat of killing migratory birds by poachers from outside the areas could not be stopped completely. With an increase in the number of roadside dhabas in recent times, demands for delicacies prepared from the migratory birds have also increased.

“So we have decided now to focus on the dhabas to carry out a campaign against buying the meat of birds killed illegally, by warning the owners of the eateries that severe action would be taken under the wildlife protection laws,” Kalita said. He said local NGOs along with forest personnel would carry out the drive.

The range officer said initially a survey would have to be done on the dhabas to find out the total number of eateries with their locations in the district and also on food stalls that come up during winter in Majuli where the flow of foreign tourists is increasing each year. He said dhaba owners would be told that selling delicacies prepared from meat of birds killed and sold by poachers will land them in jail and if convicted, they would be imprisoned.

The president of Socio-ecological and Health Welfare Association, Hemen Saikia, said his organisation would offer full cooperation to the proposed initiative.

He said after the annual examinations in schools are over, his organisation will start the awareness campaign on bicycles again involving students and will also assist the department in conducting the survey on the dhabas.


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