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Bird paradise turns hunters' haven

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT in Islampur
  • Published 21.01.09
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Islampur, Jan. 21: Sapnikla, the only forest tract in the Islampur subdivision of North Dinajpur, is getting spoilt because of neglect and lack of interest on the part of the administration.

The 50-acre wooded area, where migratory birds flock and small mammals like jackals and mongooses ramble, is a hunting ground for poachers and timber smugglers now. The spot is a about 18km from here and 8km from NH31. At a time when the spot is fast losing its greenery, two guards posted to protect the forest are unarmed.

According to sources in the administration, the state government had plans to turn the place into a tourist destination two years ago. They said in order to protect the forest, the government had sanctioned Rs 25 lakh under the Union government’s Rashtriya Sama Vikas Yojana, but the funds had not been utilised for the past two years.

Local people said Sapnikla was well connected by road and it had tremendous potential to be a tourist spot. But, they added, hunters and timber smugglers had played havoc with the wildlife.

Sunil Basak, a trader who lives in the nearby Ramganj, said local people used to sight small mammals till a few years ago. “The regular interference by timber poachers and hunters has had an effect on bird life in the forest. Nowadays, even migratory birds do not flock the large waterbody in the forest,” said Basak. He added that unless and until the place was turned into a tourist destination and protected, it would take just a few years for the place to be destroyed.

Civil defence minister Srikumar Mukherjee said funds had been kept aside for the improvement of the forest. “We initially plan to develop the place as a picnic.”

The divisional forest officer of Raiganj, Ashis Sen, said the department had planned to erect a fence around the forest, but the project had been stalled because of land-related disputes.