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Drowned Kaziranga forest guard’s body found

Jorhat, Aug. 27: The Kaziranga National Park suffered its first human casualty in this year’s flood when a member of the forest protection force drowned after the boat in which he was travelling capsized in the flooded Agaratoli range last night.

Dwipen Baruah’s body was fished out this afternoon from near the site of the incident after sustained search and rescue efforts since last night.

Divisional forest officer, S.K. Seal Sarma, told The Telegraph that Baruah was with other colleagues on the boat.

He said the floodwaters from the Brahmaputra have already claimed at least six animals — a rhino calf, an elephant calf, a buffalo calf and three deer — and inundated about 80 per cent of the 854 square km World Heritage site.

The Brahmaputra marks the northern boundary of the park along certain stretches.

The park authorities, however, are upbeat over the right dose of floods after three years that would help clean up the park.

“We are having a welcome flood after three years and the waters would cleanse the park of undesirable flora such as water hyacinths. Besides, the floods would also rejuvenate the several waterbodies inside the park,” Sarma said.

The official said the annual floods were vital for the park’s ecosystem.

He said floodwaters entered the park about three days back and all the low-lying areas in the five ranges have been inundated. “While most of the animals are taking shelter on highlands in the park, a few have crossed over the National Highway 37 to adjacent Karbi Anglong,” he said. The highway delineates the park’s southern boundary along much of the stretch.

Sarma rued last night’s accident involving the death of the forest guard and that of the animals but maintained if the flooding is of the right measure then the park benefits immensely.

“The grassland and the wetlands and their drainage system are naturally maintained by flood while rendering an ecosystem management service,” he said. “Loss from floods is negligible compared to the benefits on offer,” he added.

Sarma said the denizens of the park are used to the annual floods and most of the animals are taking shelter in woodlands located on high grounds.

“The problems begin when there is high floods and water remains inside the park for a long time. However, the present water level is stable and we expect the water to recede within the next few days,” he said.

While the park witnessed high floods in 2012, floodwaters had entered only a small portion of Kaziranga last year and in 2011.

The DFO said all necessary steps have been taken to protect the animals, which have strayed out of the park especially to Karbi Anglong hills. “We have intensified patrolling along the foothills of Karbi Anglong and are regularly monitoring the movement of the animals,” he said.

The park authorities have also imposed speed restrictions on vehicles plying on the national highway. “Apart from the series of rumbling strips on the stretch of the highway passing through the park, we have also imposed speed restrictions on vehicles so that animals are not hit,” he said.