With a view ‘to strengthen the management system and boost operation efficiency’ in the Kaziranga National Park (KNP), the Assam government has decided to divide the park into four divisions with separate Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) for each park.

“As part of the Intensification of Management and Restoration of the Kaziranga National Park programme, we have decided that from one division encompassing the whole park, we will now have four divisions with each one having its own DFOs,” Minister for Environment and Forest Rockybul Hussain said in Guwahati on Saturday.

He said the existing Burapahar and Bagori ranges will together form a new Kaziranga West Division with headquarters at Bagori, while the Kohora and Agratuli ranges would form the Kaziranga East Division headquartered in Bokakhat.

The Biswanath range in the northern bank of Brahmaputra river would be converted into a separate North Zone which will have its headquarters in Bishwanath Chariali.

“Besides, we will have a separate Division for Eco Development and Eco Sensitisation outside the park area. This Kaziranga Eco Development division will be headquartered in Bokakhat,” Mr. Hussain said.

“A committee which includes the Assam Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and other senior officials have been told to have the project implemented within one month,” he added.

The State government is also planning to shift three other bodies to Kaziranga. They are the Central Assam Afforestation Division, Hojai, Logging Division, Tinsukia, and the Forests Resource and Survey Division, Guwahati.

‘Shoot-at-sight could be considered’

The government is taking all steps and shoot-at-sight orders could be considered in the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) to deal with poaching, the minister added.

“Some of the demands made recently by the All Assam Students Union (AASU) are sound ones, including deployment of army and shoot-at-sight orders,” he told reporters.

Extremist groups are reportedly present in the area around the park and forest department personnel cannot deal with them, he said, adding that “Poachers now use sophisticated weapons and we are trying to match them.”

Mr. Hussain said the State Home Department has already got in touch with the Union Home Ministry regarding allotment of sophisticated arms like AK series rifles and ball ammunition.

“As soon as the sanction comes, we will get them from the Defence Ministry’s Ordnance factories,” he said.

The minister said 200 additional Home Guards have been deployed in the park in recent times and 200 SLR rifles have been sent to the place for anti-poaching operations.

“Assam is the only State where forest personnel have been given power to use such sophisticated arms against poachers,” he said.

Another 200 staff is likely to be added to the park after the new divisions are created, Mr. Hussain said. He, however, refused to provide details regarding current staff strength by citing security issues.