Plea to make Deopahar a reserve forest

Pristine green belt an ideal elephant corridor in Assam

By Smita Bhattacharyya in Jorhat
  • Published 24.07.16
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Elephants try to enter the NRL township from Deopahar side. Picture by Smita Bhattacharyya

Jorhat, July 23: Buoyed by the jaati (community), maati (land) and bheti (home) call of the new BJP government in the state, Anirban Nature Club, an environmental organisation in Golaghat district, is planning to appeal to Dispur to declare Deopahar a reserve forest area.

The pristine Deopahar forest is contiguous to Kaziranga National Park and the Karbi hills and elephant movement in the area is a frequent occurrence.

Atop Deopahar, a hillock, on the Numaligarh-Dimapur Road, is the reconstructed ruins of an exquisitely carved base of a temple. Carved stone figurines of the temple, which the Archaeological Survey of India has dated to somewhere between the 7th and 9th century AD, speak of a highly developed civilisation that existed during ancient times but has no mention in history.

Arnab Saikia, an executive of the organisation, said in 1999 the state forest department had proposed that the area be made a part of the reserve forest area but nothing materialised.

"We have stepped up our activities after Numaligarh Refinery began to acquire more land and began to encroach upon forest areas, which have a fragile eco-system," Saikia said.

"It is not only the NRL but also tea gardens and a village which we would like to have removed as they are spoiling the environment," he further said.

"We are hopeful that the new government will not only take care of the indigenous people of the state but also consider our demand as it is in connection with the state's immense forest wealth, which is being gobbled up at a fast pace by so-called development and encroachment," Saikia said.

The organisation hopes that the new government will take this matter seriously.

"A documentary we made showed how an elephant herd tried to negotiate a wall but could not do so. Several times they butted their heads against the wall but could not find a way to the Karbi hills and beyond. This drew worldwide attention after it went online in SanctuaryAsia last year. "The NRL might refute (this by saying)that it has taken what was allotted to it by the Golaghat district administration, but the fact remains that this area is as important to several wildlife species as Kaziranga and Karbi hills and even further up the Garampani reserve. It is the NRL's expansion activities like golf course, housing colonies and now a biorefinery that are irksome and the administration is pandering to its demands for more land each time," he said.

Samarjit Sharma, another executive, said he had filed a PIL in Gauhati High Court against the Centre, ministry of environment and forests, state government, the principal chief conservator of forests, Golaghat deputy commissioner and divisional forest officer and the NRL last year. The verdict is pending.

Another case against the NRL and others has been filed at the National Green Tribunal, Delhi, by Rohith Choudhury, against the four lanes passing through the national park, among others.

NRL senior manager (corporate communications) Madhuchanda Adhikari, in a point-by-point rebuttal, denied the allegations and said it would honour the tribunal's verdict in letter and spirit.