GUWAHATI- Minister for Environment and Forest, Parimal Suklabaidya reviewed the status of Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park and creation of infrastructure to increase tourists’ inflow.
Reviewing the various issues of the national park at a meeting with senior officials of the forest department and DFO, Orang National Park at the conference hall inside the park premises on Monday, Minister Suklabaidya asked the officials to explore every possible avenue to build environment friendly infrastructure so that tourists can put up in the park. “To attract tourists, amenities have to be created, including accommodation inside the park premises,” he said, adding that the park with rich flora and fauna would be able to draw tourists in hordes. He directed the officials to come up with eco-friendly structures for tourists’ stay. The meeting mulled plans to set up eco friendly pre-fabricated guest house in the land that have come up at the contact point of Dhansiri river on the western side of the park. In this context, Suklabaidya asked the DFO and the Darrang social forestry division to go in for plantation in the new buffer areas that have been added to the park.
The Minister said that he along with senior officials of the department would take up the matter with ATDC for setting up guest houses for tourists in and around the park.
The issue of encroachment also figured in the meeting. DFO, Sandip Kumar apprised the minister that 15 to 20 families have been served notice to vacate the park land and they would move out shortly.
Kumar said the tender process for the bridge inside the park will be completed soon.
The Minister while appreciating the initiative to set up anti-poaching camps with towers asked the DFO Kumar to ensure that no poaching takes place in the national park. Presently, there are 40 anti poaching camps with eight watch towers covering an area of 79.28 sq km.
Suklabaidya also reviewed the preparedness of the park authorities to deal with impending floods. He asked them to be in vigil and to rescue the wild animals from flood water. DFO Kumar informed that 50 per cent of the park consists of highlands, most of the animals take shelter there and the number of casualty is less. Two speed boats, two motorised boats and 30 country boats are ready to be pressed into rescue operation of wildlife during flooding.
PCCF and HoFF, AM Singh and PCCF (Wildlife) Amit Sahai assured the DFO that logistic support would be provided to ramp up the infrastructure in the park to attract tourists. The top officials asked the DFO to free the park from encroachment and to initiate confidence building measures with the local people. They underscored the need for taking steps to ensure livelihoods for the people living in the fringe areas of the park.
Sahai asked the DFO to send batch of 15 frontline staff in the age group of 30 to 35 to Mandakata for training in modern weaponry. He directed the DFO to provide deworming medicine as most animals are affected during the monsoon season.
The top officials said ex gratia will be sent through DBT to the kith of those killed by elephants immediately. They said the department has prepared a cabinet note following the announcement made by the Chief Minister to raise the ration allowance to front line personnel to Rs.2, 000.
The Minister also reviewed forest related matters to officials of Darrang district, including creation of new sand mahals along the Dhansiri river after a proper survey. He also reviewed the activities of social forestry division, including plantation of saplings. Officials informed the Minister that 10,000 saplings have been planted and more than 1 lakh saplings are available.
The meeting was attended by MLA, Ganesh Limbu, former MLA, Gurujyoti Das, CCF, Hemkanta Talukdar and forest officials of Sonitpur and Darrang districts.
The Orang National Park, also a tiger reserve is home to 29 Royal Bengal Tigers (as in 2017), 101 rhinos (as in 2018), deer, pythons and other animals.