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The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Eye camp to win over Kaziranga villagers

Jorhat, Dec. 13: The Kaziranga National Park authorities have launched an initiative to win the trust of the villagers residing on the fringes of the park in an attempt to check poaching there.

The authorities are organising eye camps in the surrounding areas of the park in phases.

The park has involved Phanidhar Bordoloi Memorial Trust, a Jorhat-based organisation, which will be using the services of Chandraprabha Eye Hospital to conduct eye camps and surgeries on patients who will need it free of cost. The park will also arrange for transportation of the patients.

Park director N.K. Vasu, who took over charge two months back after the government had upgraded the post of the director to chief conservator of forests, said the aim of the project was to create goodwill between the villagers and the park staff.

Vasu said the park authorities thought that lending a helping hand to the villagers, who play a crucial role in tackling wildlife crime, would be the right approach to win their trust. He said the method of interaction between the people and the park staff needed to change for taking on the poachers, who get help from the locals.

Without the information on the movement of animals and shelter from the villagers, the poachers cannot operate at such a rate, he added.

“Kaziranga, which has a large number of waterbodies and the Brahmaputra flowing on the north with a lot of saporis on it and the Karbi Anglong hills on the southern side, the cooperation of the villagers could turn the tables,” Vasu said.

He said the park authorities came to know from their sources that a large number of villagers suffered from eye problems and hence approached Phanidhar Bordoloi Memorial Trust, which accepted the proposal.

The chief conservator of forests said the trust agreed to use the service of a well-equipped private eye hospital of Jorhat.

The first camp was organised at Kohora Interpretation Centre of the park on December 9 in which over 300 people from about 20 villages were examined and from them 65 people were found to be eligible for cataract surgeries.

The managing trustee of the trust, Narayan Bordoloi, said it had undertaken community projects in the backward areas of Upper Assam and so the proposal from Kaziranga National Park was accepted.