Guwahati: A forest for many is tigers, lions, elephants and in the case of Assam, rhinos. However, a forest is much more than just these animals: a plethora of species of plants and animals, reptiles and insects, complete a forest.

Inception of Kanaklata Bio-diversity Park

Assam’s Jayanta Kumar Das, a renowned journalist and wildlife activist from Udalguri District’s Kalaigaon, has dedicated his life to the conservation of this entire ecosystem. Das looks after Kanaklata Bio-diversity Park established in 2008 by the Trust Board of Kalaigaon Sevashram. His father, social worker and freedom fighter Late Pani Ram Das had donated 60 bighas of his own land (valued at Rs 1.5 Cr per Bigha at present) covered with man-made wetlands suitable for water birds, natural and man-made grasslands and forests for the cause.

Migratory birds – Whistling ducks in Kanaklata Bio-diversity Park

“Jayanta (Das) is a nature lover and a very good person and, as I love nature too, I encouraged him. The Kanaklata Bio-diversity Park is a 20-acre stretch of land that was actually named after his mother. He is a ‘lone-warrior’ and has put up a one-man show, fighting to preserve this space to teach the future generations about nature, forestry, fish and birds,” DN Hazarika, ACS, former Revenue Circle Officer of Udalguri district, presently posted Secretary of BTC administration, told EastMojo.

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Hazarika himself was involved in rescuing and releasing 25 baby monitor lizards which were brought to the park in 2016 at Das’ initiative.

“There are reserve forests within cities like Delhi, so why can’t we have one near Kalaigaon town? It should be grown more. We need to protect all small and big animals and we must co-exist with nature,” Hazarika added.

Diverse flora and fauna in the Park

The Kanaklata Bio-diversity Park’s management is headed by the Revenue Circle Officer as its president and Jayanta Kumar Das himself, who has been the secretary of the committee since 2015. With Das’ active involvement, the park today is home to rescued snakes, endangered owls and many wetland birds. 

A full-grown monitor lizard visiting a house near the bio-diversity park.

Some other animals that have found shelter in the park include jackals, mongoose, spectacled and monocled cobras, monitor lizards, Tokay geckos, cormorants, lesser whistling ducks, open billed storks, patriges, numerous species of butterflies and civet cats.

“We have a centre called ENVIS Hub-Assam. It is an Environmental Information Centre, a scheme under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) Government of India. The park (Kanaklata Bio-diversity Park) has adopted it as a bio-diversity learning centre. We did a survey and submitted a proposal to the ministry after which the area was adopted,” Manisha Sarma, Scientific Officer, ASTEC told EastMojo.

“All local students of nearby schools and colleges come to the park and learn about various species. During winter season, they get to learn about migratory birds,” Sarma explained.

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ENVIS Hub-Assam has also approached Tang La College for assistance and four professors have shown keen interest in doing the nomenclature of the flora and fauna present there. “They will study migratory birds after their visit this year, after which we will make a report and submit the same to the Ministry (MoEF&CC),” informed the Scientific Officer.

Tackling poaching, drying water bodies

Although small, the bio-diversity park has seen unique and rare fauna but due to lack of a boundary wall, poachers and unauthorised people frequently enter the park and kill animals and rare birds.

During dry season, the water bodies dry up, causing the death of water animals and loss of home for water birds.

“This biodiversity park could be very much a learning centre of biodiversity and learning of wild animal behaviour. An RCC boundary wall will protect the animals and lastly, the excavation of a wetland will help wetland birds in the dry season,” said Das, who has also written to the Secretary of Bodoland Territorial Region and other organisations seeking help.

Das acknowledges the urgency to protect forests in the region and urges locals and the government to take steps towards the same keeping in mind that out of the 24,996 hectares of Reserve Forest and Proposed Reserve Forest lands, at least 8,763 hectares have been lost to encroachment under the Dhansiri Forest division.

Statement of Reserve Forest & Proposed Reserve Forest

S.No.Name of the RF/ PRFArea of the RF/ PRF Area of the RF/ PRF under encroachment Total HouseholdsTotal PopulationOther details
1Khalingduar Reserve Forest7090.20 Hect1365.00 Hect282 Nos1416
2Rota Reserve Forest7739.99 Hect2342.53 Hect3727 Nos17573
3Bhairabkunda Reserve Forest2440.75 Hect155.20 Hect85 Nos328Eviction on 03/08/2015 – Evicted 24 houses.

Eviction on 13/05/2016 – evicted 49 houses.

Areas re-planted.
4Kundarbil Proposed Reserve Forest992.00 Hect920.00 Hect182 Nos446
5Bhairabkunda Proposed Reserve Forest3543.00 Hect3520.00 Hect267 Nos1310
6Newly Hill Proposed Reserve Forest568.00 Hect60.00 Hect
7Barnadi Wildlife Sanctuary2621.813 Hect400.00 Hect436 Nos2178

Other initiatives

Das has also taken various initiatives to raise awareness about wildlife conservation in the district, especially among students and children, educating them about the need to protect the region’s fauna by bringing them to the park for field study.

The India-Bhutan transboundary area holds a special significance as it provides refuge to nearly 10 per cent of the world’s Asiatic Elephants including 40 per cent of India’s remaining elephant population.

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Das has initiated a community-based programme called the Elephants on the Line to reduce the loss of human and elephant lives in the region, particularly in the Udalguri district. 

Das’ initiative also garnered help from North Carolina University in the US along with US Fish and Wildlife Service, Asian Elephant Support, Riddle’s Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary, Dhansiri Forest Division and Udalguri district administration.

The Udalguri district region of the Bhutan-India border is a hotbed of such conflicts with 73 elephants and 175 human lives lost out of at least 825 elephant deaths and 875 human deaths across Assam in just a decade’s time between 2010 and 2020.

The programme serves as a guide for significant projects involving education, training, HEC (Human-Elephant Conflict) prevention, fringe population welfare, creation of elephant refuges with water, fodder and resting places and reinstating corridors for the safe movement of the jumbos.

Also read: Assam: 2-year old killed in firing to chase elephants, two guards arrested

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