| A worker clears unwanted vegetation inside Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Garden at Chakardoi in Rani reserve forest. Picture by Kishore Talukdar |
Borjhar, Jan. 17: The Guwahati social forestry division has banned picnics at the Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Garden at Chakardoi in the Rani reserve forest, 18km from Guwahati.
Sources said a “section of unruly picnickers” uses the garden as a dumping yard and litter it with waste matter such as used plates and glasses, which has prompted the authorities to take the step. Spread across 2.5 hectares in the reserve forest situated in the Kamrup (metro) district, the garden is home to 147 medicinal and aromatic plant species. The City Plantation Range, Guwahati, runs the garden.
Kailash Chandra Kalita, range officer of the City Plantation Range, said some picnickers treat the garden as a waste dump without sparing a thought for the ecology. “Though there is a specific site in the garden meant for cooking, some visitors flout norms and have turned the garden into a waste dump. This closure notice is temporarily effective for visitors as well. But once the picnic season is over we will open the garden to visitors. However, the park is still open to students,” Kalita said.
Local sources, however, alleged that the visitors are mostly college and university students who are forced to return on not being allowed to enter the garden.
“From November to February, students visit the garden every year as part of their environmental field study and for projects. But this year, many groups have had to return without being allowed entry into the garden,” a resident of Chakardoi, who did not wish to be named, said. He alleged that the authorities had taken the step only to cover up the “dilapidated state of the garden”.
“If visitors, who are mostly students, are allowed entry into the garden, the real picture will be revealed,” the source said.
Of the nine medicinal plant species placed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora, one of them, Rauwolfia serpentine, is found at the garden.
“Some 35 species, which are already dead, will have to be replanted at the garden. I have offered the City Plantation Range a list of 23 species that need replacement,” environmentalist Laxman Teron told this correspondent.