GUWAHATI, Oct 29 - Shocking as it is, a wobbly makeshift bamboo bridge is all that connects a prime rhino habitat with the world outside. Burhachapori Wildlife Sanctuary which is among the State’s few rhino-bearing areas is enduring this plight for the last six months after the wooden bridge was washed away by floods.
Add to this the myriad problems plaguing the sanctuary such as unabated erosion by the Brahmaputra, manpower shortage, infrastructure constraints, one would be inclined to treat the State Government’s rhino conservation rhetoric as an eyewash.
Significantly, Burhachapori – situated on the south bank of the Brahmaputra in Sonitpur district – forms a contiguous forest belt with Laokhowa WLS besides being a part of Kaziranga Tiger Reserve. It provides a critical animal corridor for both Kaziranga and Orang national parks.
“This has been the state of connectivity to Burachapori WLS. The wooden bridge which could support small vehicles was washed away by floods in July and since then the sanctuary has remained cut-off from the rest of Assam. There has been no construction of any alternative road nor is there any visible progress on the work on a concrete bridge under construction for years,” KS Dekaraja, Assistant Conservator of Forests, told The Assam Tribune.
With the bamboo bridge serving as the only facility for the forest personnel and the villagers, management of the sanctuary has been severely hit.
“Our routine works have been disrupted. Tourist flow to the sanctuary which had picked up considerably in the recent years has come to a standstill now. We have repeatedly been taking up the matter with the PWD but to no avail,” he rued.
The Laokhowa-Burhachapori complex – once sheltering plentiful of rhinos – is currently under the India Rhino Vision (IRV)-2020 translocation programme under which a mother and a calf from Kaziranga were relocated to Burhachapori last year. Both the animals have died, the calf only a few days back.
“How can the management function under these circumstances, especially when Burhachapori is an area where the Government is executing the rhino re-introduction programme under the ambitious IRV-2020?” an IRV official said.
Erosion is another big problem, with almost one-third area of the sanctuary eroded by the Brahmaputra. “Unless some urgent erosion-protection measures are taken, the sanctuary’s survival could be jeopardised. One-third of its area has already vanished into the river,” Dekaraja said.