The Telegraph
Saturday , March 1 , 2014
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Jokai garden wallows in neglect

- Funds & manpower crunch hits facility

Dibrugarh, Feb. 28: The Jokai Botanical Garden-cum-Germplasm Centre here is in a state of neglect.

The Jokai reserve forest, 18km from Dibrugarh, is a rich treasure trove of various species of flora and fauna, including some important medicinal species, which are nearly extinct now. Jokai Botanical Garden is in Jokai reserve forest on Mancotta-Khamtighat road.

“Jokai reserve forest is an incredible place for tourists to explore but because of non-utilisation of funds, the reserve forest is in a pathetic and dismal condition,” said Nakul Khound, coordinator of Irab-Kirab, an NGO.

Mridul Bharali, a local resident, said the botanical garden-cum-germplasm centre, which was inaugurated on February 1, 2004, by chief minister Tarun Gogoi, is in a pathetic condition today and the state forest department is not bothered about the matter.

“Conservation and protection of the forest is an issue which the department cannot address single-handedly. Community participation from the locals in the area is a must to save the greenery and for that awareness is needed,” B. Baruah, forest ranger of Dibrugarh, told The Telegraph.

Moreover, Baruah said there is an acute shortage of funds and manpower and this has been indirectly affecting the reserve forest as well as the botanical garden.

According to official sources, at present, there are no funds available for 2013-2014 for the preservation and conservation of Jokai Botanical Garden-cum-Germplasm Centre. He said there are seven officials to look after an area of 1.2 hectares, which is not enough to carry out the day-to-day activities involving timely security checks. At least double the number of officials is required.

“Soumendra Saikia, former deputy ranger of Jokai reserve forest, was an environmental enthusiast and it was he who took much interest in the forest. He planted many medicinal plants in the botanical garden and had done many awareness related programmes in villages near Jokai,” said Rabi Das, a local of Jokai. During his time, the reserve was in a good position but now the residents of the locality are using the garden for grazing animals and this has indirectly cut down hundreds of medicinal trees.

Environmentalists and NGOs working on conservation of forests and wildlife have expressed deep concern over the unabated felling of trees in Jokai reserve forest.

“Jokai Botanical Garden is totally being neglected by authorities concerned,” said Soumyadeep Dutta, director of Nature’s Beckon, an NGO.

Indiscriminate felling of trees has severely degraded the forests. In the long run it will lead to severe deforestation. The botanical garden, if maintained well, can be of great use for students and could even be turned into a conservation-cum-educational centre, said Dutta.

In order to give the much-needed boost to eco-tourism, a number of projects were undertaken earlier by the departments concerned but now there is no trace of a single one.

A huge waterbody, called Erashuti, about 7-8km from Jokai reserve, where every year many migratory birds arrived during the winter and wild buffaloes during summer, is in a pitiable condition. Elephant rides and trekking in the area no longer exist.

“The government should take adequate steps to conserve the waterbodies and the botanical garden before it is too late,” said Kaushik Baruah, a research scholar’s aide.