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Activist writes to Assam CM against allotting land near Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary to NDRF

 

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has been urged not to allot large swathes of land adjoining a major elephant habitat to the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for establishing its 1st Battalion.

A military station next to the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) has already spelt disaster for more than 50 elephants that have become victims of frequent human-animal conflicts, Assam-based environmental activist Rohit Choudhury said in the letter on December 2.

A process of allotting 250 bighas of land in Sonapur Revenue Circle of Kamrup (Metropolitan) district to the NDRF has been on since 2017. Wildlife activists have been pointing out that letting the force occupy the plot adjoining the 78.64 sq km wildlife sanctuary would increase the conflicts with elephants and other animals being currently faced by the expansive Narengi Military Station.

“It is a well-known fact that Amchang WLS is home to over 50 elephants, deer, leopards, jungle cats and various other wildlife species. However, it is very disturbing to know that the government of Assam has allotted (250 bighas) land to NDRF for establishing its campus and constructing building in the area which qualifies to be forest...” Mr. Choudhury said.

He also cited a series of letters from the Divisional Forest Officer of Guwahati Wildlife Division to the Deputy Commissioner of the district concerned.

In one such letter on January 5, 2017, the district authority was told that “…the plot of land allotted to the 1st Battalion NDRF at Amching is literally a forest area having beautiful forest cover and is contiguous to Amchang WLS almost in the middle part of it. The entire landscape with the plot of land allotted to NDRF is used by wild animals including elephants of Amchang WLS as an ideal habitat…”

The letter further said: “…the proposal to fell a large number of trees with huge quantity of earth-cutting at the site is going to alter the environment adversely for the wild animals in situ and in the contiguous wildlife sanctuary. That action will result in more conflict between the fringe villagers and wild animals…”

The activist also cited the minutes of a meeting Assam’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) organised on September 5 this year. Senior forest officials had in the meeting observed that Amchang WLS “surrounds” the allotted land on three sides.

“Under the circumstances, the residents of NDRF campus are likely to face elephant depredation problem on a daily basis in future, similar to that being faced by the residents of the Narangi Military Station. Even during the initial construction period, wild animals particularly elephants and leopards would be disturbed and it may lead to serious human-animal conflicts in the fringe areas of the wildlife sanctuary resulting in loss of human life, domestic animals and property…”

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