Kaziranga National Park reopens for tourist season
The Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve in Assam was thrown open to domestic and international tourists on Wednesday. However, visitors below 10 years or above 65 years are not allowed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kaziranga is the second park to reopen in the state after the Manas National Park on October 2, two of the most sought-after places by tourists visiting Assam. There are five national parks in the state. Orang National Park and Tiger Reserve will reopen on November 1.
Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal formally reopened Kaziranga, famed for its rhinos, for tourists, hoping the move would help revive Assam’s tourism sector hit hard by the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
This has been the longest shutdown for Kaziranga since the lockdown in March, a huge financial loss for the facility and locals, many of whom are dependent on the park for their livelihood.
According to a senior forest department official, the annual Kaziranga revenue is around Rs 6 crore, raised through entry fees, safari fees and tariffs for accommodation in forest guesthouses. But the park has taken a huge financial hit, first because of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in December last year followed by the lockdown.
The park usually remains closed between June and September because of the annual floods and reopens in November. This year Kaziranga witnessed one of its worst floods since 1988.
The park authorities are hoping the advance reopening will help them encash on the Durga Puja holidays.
Visitors will, however, have to adhere to strict regulations to check the spread of Covid-19, which has infected over 2 lakh people and led to 850 deaths in Assam since March 31.
Even the jeep safari will run at half capacity while the elephant safari will start from November 1, an official said.
Referring to the one-time financial assistance provided to those engaged in jeep safari to alleviate their economic stress, Sonowal said the state government would take more such initiatives in future for providing succour to the people engaged in the tourism sector.
He also called on the people of the five districts covered by Kaziranga and those residing in the surrounding areas of the park to extend full hospitality to the visitors so that the “best picture of the state could be presented to the world”.
Urging everyone to follow Covid protocols, Sonowal also urged the media to spread the good news about Kaziranga’s reopening so that tourists from across the country and abroad can come and enjoy the natural beauty of the park and contribute to the revival of the state’s tourism industry.
In 2018-19, over 47,10,971 domestic tourists and 25,739 foreign tourists visited the state.