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Green respite for Dibru-Saikhowa park - Forest department to relocate two villages existing in the middle of the forest

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OUR CORRESPONDENT Dibrugarh Published 02.06.05, 12:00 AM

Dibrugarh, June 2: The forest department has decided to relocate two villages existing in the middle of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park to protect wildlife.

?For effective management of the park, it is essential that the core area is free of human habitation. We have removed several illegal khutis from the Saikhowa range in the park. Illegal fishing has also gone down,? Aniruddha Dey, forest divisional officer of Tinsukia said over phone.

?We have conducted a survey and the report will be ready within a couple of days. The significant thing is that the villagers, too, want to move out of here. We are now looking into the matter of their rehabilitation,? said Dey.

The Tinsukia wildlife division is in charge of maintaining the 760 square kilometre park, which was accorded the status of a national park in 1999.

The 20,000-odd population in the two forest villages, Laika and Dodhia, has always been in the middle of controversy for its alleged role in destroying forests and wildlife.

The forest department established Laika with around 75 households in 1952 and Dodhia with around 90 households four years later on the condition that the residents would work for the department without any payment.

The nationwide census carried out in 2001 stated that Laika now has 286 households, while Dodhia has 335. This set off an alarm with the authorities deciding to relocate the villages.

However, the move was stalled due to opposition from the villagers and lack of political will.

?Last year?s devastating floods left us with no option but to leave our villages. We also do not want to leave with the stigma of being smugglers or poachers. That is why we have decided to move out. Now it is up to the government to find alternatives for us,? said a resident of Laika village.

The national park is famous for its flora and fauna and is home to around 350 species of residential and migratory birds.

The Dibru-Dholla-Saikhowa rivers and their tributaries that criss-cross the park provide the endangered Gangetic river dolphin a breeding ground.

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