Guwahati, Monday, January 18, 2010
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Beki riverbank turns into a paradise for picnickers
 BARPETA, Jan 17 Though flood and erosion of Beki river have distressed thousands of people in Barpeta and Baksa districts in the last five years, yet the beauty of the river still beckons visitors. From Mathanguri inside the Manas National Park to National Highway-31 near Sarbhog, numerous picnic revelers were seen in the last several weeks.

Earlier, during the pre-Bodoland movement days, Mathanguri was one of the most attractive destinations for picnic parties. But the Bodoland Movement changed the image of the area to a considerable extent. The scope for recreation and environmental studies there emerged following the end of turbulence over Bodoland and the return of peace. People not only get relief from the monotony of modern life from serenity of the beauty of the area but also get an opportunity to acquaint oneself with the fauna and flora of this area. The desire for having one more glimpse of Manas National Park forces people to rush to the park.

The picnic spot of Mathanguri had lost much to the devastating natural calamities in 2004. With the siltation of streams of two rivers Manah and Hakuwa Beki has become deeper with the water current becoming stronger to access the picnic spot from the north side. Apprehending environmental hazards, Manas National Park-cum-Tiger Project authorities have banned picnicking inside the park area though visitors are still allowed in. The picnic parties at present are allowed to cook at Narayanguri, which is close to the park area, just a kilometer west of Bansbari Range Office.

Since opening of the park to visitors on the 4th of November last, there has been a rush for picnic in this area from different parts of the State. During December, over 300 picnic parties visited the park; most of them cooking food on the Beki River bank at Narayanguri.

The Narayanguri picnic spot, which falls inside the Manas National Park area, generates good revenue for the Bansbari Range Office one has to pay fee to enter the park. Sources in the Bansbari Range Office informed this Correspondent that an average of 100 to 120 cars enter the park daily during the peak season. According to the official an amount of Rs 4.28 lakh was collected during the month of December. During the first three days of the year 2010, over 2000 visitors entered the park which collected an amount of Rs 2.5 lakh from them. The amount in January is expected to cross Rs 20 lakh.

He also informed that apart from neibouring areas of Barpeta, Baksa, Nalbari and Chirang districts, a good number of visitors from Guwahati visited this park this year. Besides 120 people from Kolkata, 16 from Mumbai and six foreign tourists have also visited this park for various reasons.

Not that Mathanguri or Narayanguri are only visited by the picnic parties as these areas are either inside or adjust to the famous park. The entire stretch of Beki River to the south of Nationa Highway-31 attracts people who relax during this season of the year. Both sides of the river are busy during these days with temporary sheds of the daily visitors converting it into a sea of humanity.

Local people forget the woes caused by the devastation of the river during the summers and hug visitors as their guests. Traders and transporters take the opportunity to earn a few extra rupees.

But it is a matter of regret that in spite of tremendous potential and increasing number of visitors, departments of the Government of Assam or BTAD administration have failed to provide basic amenities. With slight attention and little expenditure this area can be converted into a major tourist hub of the State.