Members of Garupaban Joint Forest Management Committee
NEWS

Villagers give new lease of life to dying forest in Assam

Unabated encroachment was eating up most of Geleki Reserve Forest in Sivasagar district. That was until some people joined hands with the forest dept to restore the area to its former glory

Sivasagar: For the past 18 years, a team of villagers from Sivasagar district in Assam has been quietly but dedicatedly leading a green revolution. Their mission: to 'restore’ the Geleki Reserve Forest, a protected area along the Assam-Nagaland border that had been dying a slow death due to unabated encroachment.

Thanks to the efforts of these villagers, who were roped in by the state forest department as part of their ‘sustainable forest and biodiversity conservation and management’ project in 2000, has now got a new lease of life. As per reports, about 250 hectares of the notified reserve forest area of 5,925 hectares have now been replenished with forest species ranging from segun (Tectora grandis) to titasopa (Michelia champaca), besides shrubs and medicinal plants, among others.

As per reports, unabated encroachment had adversely affected the flora in one of the front-ranking reserve forests, based in Geleki area under Nazira subdivision of Sivasagar district of Assam, over the past four decades. This in turn was leading to a drastic decrease in the total land area of the reserve forest (RF).

It was under such circumstances, a joint forest management committee under the banner of Garupaban Joint Forest Management Committee (JFMC) was formed in 2000 with one Niren Gogoi as president, besides 11 other executive members. For its proper functioning, a beat officer of the forest department was appointed as a secretary of the platform.

The ‘recreated’ forest is now awash with a variety of endangered trees, besides fruits, bamboos, etc. To minimise incidences of man-elephant conflict in the area, the forest management committee has also taken up various measures, including plantation of elephant apple and jackfruit trees (a favourite among elephants) in an area covering 30 hectares of land.

With the passing of time, a large number of trees, including over 1,000 species of endangered trees have also grown up in Kamalabari area of the reserve forest.

“Due to the massive encroachment from almost all sides, the Geleki Reserve Forest is gasping for breath. Practically, there is nothing like a reserve forest these days, except the forest cover that we have developed during the last 18 years,” says Niran Gogoi, who thanked senior forest department officials for their untiring efforts in turning the project into a reality.

The redeveloped forest is also now home to a number of fruit-bearing trees that cover an area of about 5 hectares. “We also have a special garden with six different endangered species of bamboo,” adds Gogoi, 43.

Incidentally, this forest has turned into a new destination for experts keen on studying the local flora and fauna. “Students, teachers and nature lovers from various parts of the Northeast visit our forest to fulfill their interests from time to time,” says Gogoi, adding: “The forest has also turned into a popular destination for picnic-goers of the district.”

The Garupaban JFMC has been able to provide for the sustenance of the conservation and bio-diversity values, environmental functions and productive potential of the forests; at the same time, meeting the consumption and livelihood needs of the local community in a sustainable manner.