KALAIGAON, Sept 7 – The continuing man-elephant conflict has taken a serious turn in Udalguri district in the last two months causing deaths of five wild elephants and six human beings.
A high-level discussion was held at the Deputy Commissioner’s conference hall at Udalguri on September 2 to find out solutions to mitigate the conflict. The meeting was organised by Bankim Sarma, DFO of Dhansiri Forest Division, in association with the Udalguri district administration. Thaneswar Malakar, Deputy Commissioner of Udalguri presided over the discussion which was attended by Mitharam Basumatari and Santias Kunjur, both BTC EMs; Debojit Deuri, SP, Udalguri; MP Sarma, PD, DRDA, Udalguri; Pradip Kumar Daimari, MCLA, BTC; Dr Anupam Sarma and Hitesh Baishya, of WWF India; Circle Officers of Mazbat, Harisinga and Udalguri; managers of Hatigarh TE, Orangajuli TE, Borangajuli TE and Nonai TE; representatives of small tea growers, NGOs’, ABSU and media persons.
Speaking on the occasion, the DFO of Dhansiri division said that no financial grants had ever been-sanctioned for the maintenance of Bornadi Wildlife Sanctuary in Udalguri district in the last two years. It needs mention that situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, bordering Bhutan in the north of Udalguri district, Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary (260 46’ 49 N and 910 45’ 31 E; at the elevation of 175 metres above sea level) with an area of 28.22 sq km could well have attracted a large number of inland and foreign tourists for its exotic virgin beauty, had there been good infrastructure like drinking water, communication system, forest guides etc. The only known abode of pigmy hog (Sus salvinous) and Hispid hare (Caprolagus hispid), Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary had been neglected by both the State and BTAD authorities since its upgradation to a wildlife sanctuary in 1980.
Earlier, it was known as the Bornadi Reserve Forest. The sanctuary had been an ideal bhabar tract. The sanctuary has at least 14 species of mammals, including the Indian elephants, tiger, leopard, slow loris, capped langur, barking deer, gaur, Himalayan black beer, wild bore, pangolin, flying squirrel, Assamese macaque, peacocks, Eurasian otter, fishing cat and porcupine etc. Non-availability of maintenance funds has virtually stopped all kinds of developmental activities inside the Bornadi WLS, paving the way of the smugglers deep inside the WLS. Patrolling is near impossible in the WLS due to lack of manpower and blockage of interior forest roads.
Debojit Deuri, SP of Udalguri urged the civil and forest officials to take prompt steps to control the deaths of elephants and humans. He also suggested the use of tear gas cells to disperse unruly wild elephants causing menace in the villages. The matter of illegal allotment of 450 bighas of forest lands to Bahmo Sewashram at Newlee PRF was also raised during the discussion.
From all the records it was found that on the basis of the report of then Circle Officer, Harisinga Revenue Circle, the SDLAC Bhergaon had alloted the said plot of forest land to the religious body, which violated forest rules as directed by the Supreme Court. Mitharam Basumatari and Santias Kuhjur, both BTC EMs assured that they would place the matter before the BTC so as to take steps to cancel the allotment.
The meeting further requested the tea gardens of the district not to encroach upon more forest land; maintain their own expenditure; not to stock chemical fertilizers and pesticides etc., out in the open; to stop erection of loose electric fencing to drive away wild elephants; not to dig deep trenches (serving as death traps for baby elephants).
The district administration directed the Circle Officers of the district to find out actual possession of lands of the tea gardens, both small and big. The issue of declaration of Dhansiri Forest Division as a wildlife division was raised by senior journalist and honorary wildlife warden Bhargab Kumar Das. Thaneswar Malakar directed the forest officials to form a high-level committee with Mitharam Basumatari, BTC, EM as the chairman to take steps to supervise the man-elephant conflict in the district.