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Ripu-Chirang awaits sanctuary status

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Staff Reporter   |   Guwahati   |   Published 09.07.09, 12:00 AM

Guwahati, July 9: Assam’s second largest protected area is now in the making with the Bodoland Territorial Council taking initiatives to declare the Ripu-Chirang reserve forest a wildlife sanctuary.

Home to a large number of golden langurs, elephants and numerous other plants and animal species, the area is spread over a total area of 590 square km — the largest protected area next to Kaziranga (860 square km).

Under the 2003 accord (the memorandum of settlement between the government and then Bodo Liberation Tigers), the BTC has executive, administrative and financial powers for the subjects transferred to it and these subjects include the management of “forests”.

“We have issued a notification for declaring the area as a wildlife sanctuary and have forwarded it to Dispur for necessary approval,” G.C. Basumatary, council head of department (forests and tourism), BTC told The Telegraph today.

The notification was issued on June 18.

If Ripu-Chirang becomes a sanctuary, the important conservation link between Buxa Tiger Reserve-Phipsu wildlife sanctuary-Royal Manas National Park (in Bhutan)-Manas National Park will be restored and preserved.

“The protected area will not only prevent any further encroachment of these historical reserve forests but will also ensure environmental stability in the fertile agricultural lands of Kokrajhar that lie just below these forests,” a forest official said.

Ripu-Chirang was first notified as a reserve forest in 1927 and the best quality sal (Shorea robusta) was supplied to the erstwhile British empire from the forest. It used to have a tramline for carrying water and timber from the forest, which was unique to the country.

The proposal for declaring the Ripu Chirang reserve forest as a protected area was long pending with Wildlife Institute of India first proposing the area fit for inclusion in a sanctuary in 1988.

A series of research studies undertaken by the Wildlife Trust of India and city-based non-governmental organisation, Aaranyak, along with other local NGOs, had also demanded the creation of a sanctuary for this heritage site.

A senior forest department official said the notification would have to be seen first by the department to examine the boundaries and the map of the reserve forest before going ahead with the task.

Current research on butterflies indicates that places such as Ultapani in this sanctuary have one of the highest densities of butterflies in northeast India. Over 300 species of butterflies have already been identified with most of them belonging to the endangered category.

A forest official in Kokrajhar said it would also strengthen the existing conservation initiatives.

that are being implemented under various government projects such as Project Elephant, Project Tiger and Manas Biosphere Reserve.

The Wildlife Protection Act says the state government shall issue a notification specifying the limits of the area which shall be comprised within the sanctuary and declare that the said area shall be a sanctuary on and from such date as may be specified in the notification.

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