GUWAHATI: An Assam reserve forest, ravaged by militancy, is set to become the state’s sixth national park.
The state government has proposed to upgrade the 422-sq km Ripu Reserve Forest in Kokrajhar district. The state’s Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya said the upgradation ball had been set rolling.
“Another success feather is adding to the biodiversity cap of Assam soon as we have initiated the process for approving the proposal for the 6th National Park of Assam the ‘Raimona National Park’...” Suklabaidya tweeted.
He unveiled a map of the proposed national park at the Manas National Park on Saturday. Earlier, a proposal towards this effect was submitted to Governor Prof Jagdish Mukhi by the government.
“The area of proposed Raimona National Park lies within the Ripu Reserve Forest that has a history of one of the best scientifically-managed forests in the country during the late 19th century. The area comprises the highest biodiverse floristic composition of the state wherein as many as 11 different forest types and sub-types could be classified,” an official statement said.
It added: “The forest and its denizens were ruthlessly massacred; almost all forest establishments were gutted down with the destruction of wildlife and their habitats from the end of 1980s when the ethno-political movement turned into a violent armed struggle in the landscape. As a result, the compact forest belt had been critically fragmented”.
The Ripu Reserve Forest, as well as adjoining Chirang Reserve Forest, is a part of the buffer zone of the Manas Tiger Reserve. They are contiguous with Bhutan’s Phipsoo Wildlife Sanctuary and Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park and home to Assam’s largest endangered golden langur population.
For years, the insurgents had used both these forests as transit routes and safe havens due to their proximity to Bhutan. They gave the rebels an escape route every time there was an anti-insurgency operation.
The Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park, Nameri National Park, Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Orang National Park are Assam’s five existing national parks.