POBITORA (MAYONG), June 22 – Shrinking grasslands caused by rapid growth of the invasive ipomoea weeds as also proliferating woodland species such as velkar has emerged as a conservation hazard for Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.
This, together with large-scale siltation on the wetlands (beels), stands to affect Pobitora’s biodiversity adversely unless addressed pragmatically.
Originally with a ratio of 60 per cent grassland, 20 per cent woodland, and 18 per cent wetland, the sanctuary has witnessed a change in landscape with its wooded forests now accounting for 30 per cent of the habitat. This ten per cent increase has come at the cost of the all-important grassland which shelters its flagship species, the rhino, besides other herbivores.
Acknowledging the problem, range officer Mukul Tamuly said that measures were being taken to contain the growth of the invasive species.
“Earlier we used to cut down the weeds before the annual floods but saplings kept on sprouting. This March, we used tractors to root out the weeds but they sprouted again. Then the newly-sprung weeds were again removed manually, and there has not been regeneration till now,” he said.
This exercise has been done over an area of one hectare on an experimental basis, and if it proves successful it would be carried out on other areas affected by ipomoea invasion.
The proliferation of velkar and ajar has been sought to be addressed by cutting down the trees. “We have covered an area of five hectares, and the felled trees are being distributed to the fringe villagers,” Tamuly said.
Heavy siltation on the wetlands has surfaced as yet another disturbing development that can result in degradation of the much-needed water-bodies inside the sanctuary.