Orang--- new home for pygmy hog


Report suggests Orang home for pygmy hog
- Conservation efforts on the endangered species in Sonai-Rupai wildlife sanctuary show good results
Guwahati, Feb. 23: After Sonai-Rupai wildlife sanctuary, the next home of the pygmy hog could well be the Orang National Park — dubbed “miniature Kaziranga”.
“Orang could be the next home of pygmy hog. A feasibility report is being prepared for examination of the site,” principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Suresh Chand told The Telegraph.
The report, being prepared by Orang National Park authorities, will be given to the forest department.
The pygmy hog (Porcula salvania) is the world’s rarest wild hog and most threatened by extinction.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in fact, has categorised the pygmy hog as “critically endangered”.
A total of 35 hogs were released in three years, from 2008-10, at the Gelgeli grasslands of Sonai-Rupai wildlife sanctuary, of which two-thirds have survived well, ground surveys and camera trapping have confirmed.
“The programme at Sonai-Rupai has worked well and there have been newborns. They are dispersing to new areas,” Gautam Narayan, project director Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme, said.
The frontline staff of the wildlife sanctuary are trained in wildlife monitoring and habitat management under a Darwin Initiative training course conducted in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London.
The conservation programme is a collaborative project between Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, IUCN/SSC Pigs Peccaries and Hippos Specialist Group, Assam forest department and ministry of environment and forests.
The IUCN in its report on Global Re-introduction Perspectives: 2010 said the released hogs have survived and adapted to the wild conditions, begun to breed and disperse.
“Monitoring, using direct and indirect methods, indicate survival of a large proportion of the released hogs, and provide evidence of increase in their population and dispersal to available habitat,” it added.
Narayan said pygmy hogs could now be released at Orang only after permission from the forest department.
A source said the northern area of the park was suitable for releasing the hogs and at least 10-12 can be released.
The programme authorities are also planning to insert radio implants on the pygmy hogs for better monitoring.
“We had put radio collars for monitoring but there were problems in that. If they were fitted too tightly they were prone to causing serious skin lesions. Therefore, there is a proposal to secure radio implants which would be fitted inside the animal,” a source said.
Weighing 8kg to 10kg and standing at 12 inches high, the pygmy hog lives in tall dense grasslands and feeds on roots, tubers and other vegetables as well as insects.
The main threats to survival of pygmy hog are loss and degradation of habitat because of human settlements, agricultural encroachments, dry-season burning, livestock grazing, commercial forestry and flood control schemes.
The IUCN report said the pygmy hog conservation project has been a highly successful conservation breeding project.
“It takes years, if not decades, of persistent efforts to implement a successful recovery programme,” it added.


from Calcutta to Ashuganj--- vessels sail for Tripura's Palatana power project

Bangla port aids project

- Waterway advances plant’s commissioning by 8 months


Guwahati, Feb. 22: Two vessels carrying heavy equipment sailed from Calcutta to Ashuganj port in Bangladesh today, making history and fast-forwarding the commissioning of the 726.6MW gas-based Palatana power plant in Tripura.

This is the first time that movement of heavy equipment has taken place through Ashuganj after it was declared a port of call last year.

“Two barges have sailed today,” R.K. Madan, senior adviser (business development, ONGC) and director, ONGC Tripura Power Company Ltd, told The Telegraph over phone from Calcutta. The vessels were supposed to sail a couple of days ago but were held up because of some incomplete formalities.

Transporting the equipment through Bangladesh will enable ONGC Tripura Power Company Ltd, which is executing the project, to advance the project’s commissioning deadline by around seven to eight months. Otherwise the company would have had to transport the equipment by land through a long, arduous route, traversing the Karimganj and Manu-Ambassa mountainous tracts and several rivers.

A source said it would take the vessels seven to eight days to reach Ashuganj through the waterway. From there, the equipment would be taken by road to Akhaura (in Bangla-desh on the border with Tripura) and then to Palatana.

A source said while the waterway made the task easier, the journey from Ashuganj to Palatana would take time as the roads were narrow and the vehicles could move only at night. The 48km stretch from Ashuganj to Akhaura is particularly narrow and the vehicles carrying the heavy load cannot travel more than 6-7km per hour. The distance from Akhaura to Palatana is 65km.

The vehicles will carry 96 equipment, weighing 11 tonne to 285 tonne, from Ashuganj. These heavy equipment are known as “over dimensional” consignments because of their large size and heavy weight. These equipment include heavy machinery, plant generator, turbines, furnace, chimney, and boilers.

Bangladesh had signed a memorandum of understanding with ONGC Tripura Power Company, a unit of ONGC, in December last year to tranship the over-dimensional consignments through Ashuganj.

The ONGC Tripura Power Company has been promoted by ONGC, Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd and the Tripura government for implementing the Palatana power project, which will supply electricity to power-deficit areas of the Northeast. The project is estimated to cost more than Rs 8,000 crore and likely to be commission by 2012.


Assam banks on growth for jobs


Assam banks on growth for jobs


Guwahati, Feb. 22: Assam is banking on a robust economic growth rate to generate enough jobs to bring down its staggering unemployment figures.

The state’s first employment policy, prepared by the department of labour and employment, has put forward three hypothetical economic growth situations in Assam to present the corresponding job scenario.

In the first growth assumption, with a GDP of 5.5 per cent, the labour department expects a 1.8 per cent increase in labour requirement annually, thereby bringing down the unemployment percentage to 21 per cent and 17 per cent between 2010 and 2015.

In case of a moderately high growth of about 8 per cent, unemployment will be 8 per cent and 11 per cent in 2015 and 2020 respectively.

“A high growth of 10 per cent would reduce the unemployment rate at about 2 per cent by 2020,” the policy states.

More and more women are expected to join the workforce, indicating a growth of labour force at the rate of 1.8 per cent.

The policy also predicts good growth rate in trade and hospitality sectors.

It suggests implementing special programmes to create additional employment for vulnerable groups that may not be sufficiently benefited by general growth promoting policies.

The composition of jobless in Assam is heavily tilted towards the unorganised sector employment.

Nearly 89 per cent of employment also comes from this sector.

According to the employment exchange, the number of job-seekers in 2007 was 1,299,366, which increased to 1,351,511 in 2008.

Most of the job seekers — about 80 per cent — in employment exchanges are without any professional skills.

The policy has suggests that employment policies should undergo a review after every five years to address the skill-building need of a workforce emerging from the agricultural sector.

There also needs to be attempts to develop relevant skills to suit emerging opportunities in employment.


100million$ by ADB for Meghalaya


$100m loan for Meghalaya
Guwahati, Feb. 21: Meghalaya’s weak economy is about to receive a shot in the arm in the form a $100 million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Sources said on February 5, the bank cleared the concept proposal of the Meghalaya Public Resource Management Development Programme.
A fact-finding team is also slated to visit the state between April 18 and 22. The board approval is scheduled in the last week of September this year.
The project information document of the bank on the programme says it will assist the state government to improve service delivery, while keeping the state on a sustainable fiscal consolidation path.
Moreover, the programme will be aligned to the outcomes sought by the state government and the Centre and will draw heavily on the lessons learned from similar programmes elsewhere in the country.
It says Meghalaya is a special category state with a rather weak economic base, and development infrastructure and endowments in the state are rather limited. Difficult geographical terrain has meant not only water shortages, but also backwardness in agricultural, transportation, communication and others.
“Consequently, there is a strong dependency on resource transfers from the central government and a limited scope for mobilising the state’s own resources for providing and sustaining improved service delivery. Thus, the logic of the proposed programme is based on the link to help fiscal consolidation as a means to complement Central transfers and build up and maintain social service improvements in the key areas, and thereby contribute to improving social welfare and minimising human and social poverty,” it says.
Under this programme, loss-making public sector enterprises would be restructured or closed, there would be service improvements in health and education sectors, government debts would be effectively restructured and managed, public expenditure would be rationalised, among others.
The state finance department will be the executing agency for the programme, while a project steering committee, to be chaired by the commissioner of finance, will be established and will have representatives from the finance department, taxation department, school education department, health and family welfare department, social welfare department, public health engineering department and public sector undertakings.
Shillong has already been included in the North Eastern Region Capital Cities Development Investment Programme with an investment of Rs 250 crore to upgrade urban infrastructure, while three roads — Garobadha-Dalu (93km), Mawngap-Umpung (76km) and Mawshynrut-Hahim (37km) — have been selected for upgrade under the proposed Rs 403-crore North Eastern State Roads Investment Programme.


Dhaka plea to india to release their stranded vessels in Assam

Dhaka plea to unload vessels
- Meet between two countries on renewal of trade protocol

Guwahati, Feb. 20: The Bangladeshi waterways authorities have asked their Indian counterparts to expedite the process of unloading of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation cargo at Pandu port so that their vessels could be freed.
Sources said the issue came up for discussion at the meeting on renewal of protocol on inland water transit and trade between India and Bangladesh at Goa, February 12-13.
The Indian side was represented by K. Mohandas, secretary, ministry of shipping, while Mohd Abdul Mannan Howlader, secretary, ministry of shipping, Bangladesh, represented the neighbouring country.
In the meeting, the Bangladeshi officials said their cargo vessels — Tug NT Lighter-3, NT Lighter-4 and NT Lighter-5 and TLN 29 — carrying over dimensional consignment for the NHPC have been stranded at Pandu for quite some time.
Sources in the Inland Waterways Authority of India said the vessels were stranded at Pandu for a couple of months.
The Indian officials at the meeting said unloading was likely to be completed by March 15, but the Bangladeshi authorities requested them to expedite the matter.
An Indian company had hired vessels from Bangladesh to carry cargo for the NHPC’s Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project.
The agitation by student organisations on the Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project issue had completely blocked the movement of the project material to the site.
Apart from Pandu, project consignment is also lying at Tezpur for the last four months.
Bangladesh, in the meeting, requested India to bring to their notice any vessels being grounded so that necessary action could be taken.
Officials of the neighbouring country said the state government authorities in India, many times, do not recognise the documents accepted under the protocol.
The Indian delegation has said such incidents would not recur in the future.
The protocol has been extended by one year and will come into force from April 1 to March 31, 2012.
India had proposed that the protocol should be extended by five years as it would give confidence to the business community and would lead to development of trade on protocol route.
Bangladesh stated that as the trade agreement between Bangladesh and India, under which the inland water transit and trade is concluded, is valid only up to March 31, 2012, and therefore the protocol would be extended till the validity of the trade agreement.
There are three ports of call in Assam — Pandu, Silghat and Karimganj — under the protocol.
The protocol rules state that each country will provide all the necessary facilities to the vessels of other, which may be grounded or otherwise in distress during their voyage in the waterways.


Rs 28 lakh paid for WWF release

Rs 28 lakh paid for WWF release

 Guwahati, Feb. 18: A sum of Rs 28 lakh was raised from “various sources” to pay the abductors of the six WWF volunteers to secure their release, something that most in the security establishment were kept in the dark about, before it was revealed at the monthly review meeting of various agencies today.
While three girls were released by the abductors — allegedly the anti-talks faction of the NDFB — after two days, the three boys were set free yesterday.
Highly placed sources said the information about the ransom was shared today at a meeting of multiple agencies, including the security forces, held at Chapakata in Bongaigaon, indicating once again that the release came not because of “sustained security operations that put the kidnappers under pressure” as claimed by police but because of the ransom paid for the boys’ release.
The meeting, which is held periodically, discussed the abduction episode among other things.
“Inputs generated from various sources revealed that Rs 28 lakh was paid for the release of the WWF volunteers,” a source said.
“The sum was raised from various sources, including official ones,” he said, without divulging the exact sources.
According to him, there was some hard bargaining with the abductors before they settled for the amount after having raised a demand for Rs 2 crore in the beginning.
He said the boys were kept at Udalguri, a place inside the 590-square km Chirang reserve forest in Kokrajhar district.
Udalguri is an encroached area and is a few kilometres from Shantipur where the three girls were earlier released.
“Whenever there is a ransom demand, bargaining starts with the kidnappers and they generally settle for about 10 per cent of the original demand, which was true of this case, too,” the source said.
Pranjal Kumar Saikia from Nagaon, who was one of the abducted volunteers, said the abductors had assured them they would not be harmed.
“They told us we had no reason to fear,” he told The Telegraph.
“They were very friendly and gave us everything right from a chessboard to a ludo set. We were also served pork and chicken,” Saikia said.
Gautam Kishore Sarma, who was taken away along with Saikia, said the 11 days in captivity were spent in fear, but it has not dented his commitment to protect wildlife and work for the environment.
“Every moment in captivity was horrible but I am ready to go back to the jungles again and complete our unfinished job of the tiger project. Once I recover from the trauma, I want to resume the work,” Gautam said, as he reached home at Borigaon village, about 16km from here around 4.30pm today.
Villagers, family members and relatives thronged the house as the news of Gautam’s safe return spread.
“We were taken hostage by a group of 15-20 armed people, all in army fatigues, and we were taken on foot for about an hour inside the thick jungles before being handed over to another group. The new group took us to another place and put us up in a tent inside the jungle. The abductors spoke in Bodo among themselves and in Assamese with us and asked us not to worry. They provided us meat to eat, chess and ludo for recreation and never threatened us,” the youth said.
“The abductors said they would not disturb us again when we restart our work,” Gautam said.

WHC asks Delhi on WWF volunteers kidnap


Paris quizzes Delhi on kidnap


Guwahati, Feb. 16: The Paris-headquartered World Heritage Centre has asked the Centre on the action taken by it for the release of three WWF volunteers from Laopani of Kokrajhar district even as hectic negotiations are under way.

“We are asking the government for further information, as well as the action taken by them in this matter,” Kishore Rao, deputy director of World Heritage Centre, told The Telegraph over email.

The World Heritage Centre is the focal point and co-ordinator within Unesco for all matters related to world heritage. Though the place of the incident, Laopani in the Ultapani area, is far from Manas National Park — a World Heritage Site — but it is very much a part and parcel of the national park.

The centre co-ordinates both the reporting on the condition of sites and the emergency action undertaken when a site is threatened.

The WWF has also written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention for the release of the boys in captivity. Singh will visit Assam on February 18.

Though the WWF will not withdraw from the conservation activity after the kidnap, it will have to rework its strategy for the future as it would not like their personnel to become soft targets.

Lot of research work in the wilds of the region is carried out by young volunteers who do the baseline work.

“All activity has come to a standstill and our main interest is in seeking the release of the boys as fast as possible. We keep on getting phone calls from the parents asking them of any news but unable to provide them anything concrete as of now,” a source in the WWF said.

Police and other concerned authorities on a daily basis brief the conservation agency on the daily developments. The three boys are reported to be safe.

“The issue now is mainly the ransom money factor with the negotiators trying to bargain for reducing the amount,” the source said, adding that contact has been made with the kidnappers.

The source said efforts have to be speeded to get the boys released, otherwise it will turn into a long drawn-out affair and be difficult to sort things out.


lassi and flavoured milk from Purabi-assam's milk dairy brand


The West Assam Milk Producers’ Cooperative Union Limited (WAMUL), the creator of Purabi brand, will introduce two new products this summer. 
“We will launch two new products, lassi and flavoured milk, this summer to add variety to our product line,” the managing director of Wamul, M. Thakur, told The Telegraph.
The flavoured milk will be packed in cups, while lassi will be distributed in pouches.
India’s biggest milk cooperative Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation has just launched lassi in the national market.
Thakur said all its milk products — cream, curd and paneer — were sold out on the occasion of Bhogali Bihu. Wamul was able to sell off 8,000kg of cream, 7,000kg of curd and 5,000kg of paneer.
The products were sold in the markets of Jorhat, Dergaon, Nalbari, Jagiroad, Pathsala, North Guwahati, Nagaon and Tihu.
To add new products, Wamul is planning to increase the storage capacity of the plant from 60,000 litres of milk per day to 1 lakh litre per day. Work has already started to increase the storage capacity of the plant.
The dairy plant was refurbished at a cost of Rs 2 crore. The official said by December the milk handling capacity would be increased to 40,000 litres per day, presently, it is 30,000 litres per day.
“Two and a half years ago, the handling capacity was just 300 litres of milk per day. The scenario has totally changed and in another two-and-a-half years, the cooperative will be able to run on commercial lines,” he said.
The dairy plant has not increased the prices of milk.
The official said Wamul was making cash profits at present and had not taken any loan. “It will be impossible to wipe out the accumulated losses which is in the range of Rs 25 crore,” Thakur said.
The company started making profits after it signed a tripartite agreement with National Dairy Development Board and Assam government in 2008.
Under the agreement, the board shall work out and implement long-term business plans for Wamul to improve procurement, processing, manufacturing, and marketing of milk and milk-products and for better utilisation of the infrastructure.


one year extension of india bangla river protocol

 1-yr extension on trade permit
Guwahati, Feb. 11: Cargo operators, who have been longing for a longer tenure of protocol on inland water transit and trade between India and Bangladesh, will be left disappointed as the protocol will be extended only by one year.
Sources said waterways officials of both countries are holding a two-day meeting in Goa tomorrow on Extension of Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade between India and Bangladesh.
The protocol is important for the waterways trade in the Northeast as Pandu, Silghat, Karimganj and Dhubri are routes on the protocol through which vessels can load and offload cargo.
In adherence to the protocol, for movement of vessels from one country to another, both countries designate certain points as “ports of call” where the vessels can load and offload cargo.
Sources said Bangladesh has conveyed to India that the latter’s demand for the duration of protocol for five years cannot be fulfilled as the protocol cannot be extended beyond the validity of trade agreement, as this is linked with the main trade agreement, which expires on March 31, 2012.
The last meeting of the protocol was held in 2009 and is valid till March 31, 2011, after which both the countries will sit down to renew the agreement.
In pursuance of article VIII of the Trade Agreement between Government of Bangladesh and the Government of India, a protocol on inland water transit and trade exists since 1972, which is renewed by the two countries from time to time.
Sources said this means that cargo operators would have to wait again for one year for renewal of the protocol for movement of cargo, which will only increase their difficulties.
Chairman of Inland Waterways Authority Bhupinder Prasad, who was recently in Guwahati, had called for greater investment in waterways so that more Indian vessels ply on the protocol route.
“There has to be more investment in the waterways for the private sector to operate vessels,” Prasad had said.
Another issue of concern is that though Silghat in Assam has been declared a permanent port of call last year there has been no movement of consignments.
Numaligarh Refinery Limited had sent high-speed diesel to Bangladesh from Silghat in 2007 but the movement had to be stopped in 2009 because of a number of reasons, including the shortage of diesel.
Around 3,400MT of high-speed diesel has been exported to the neighbouring country since 2007.
“There has been no reply from Bangladesh after we started the move afresh,” a senior NRL official said.


Guwahati Munciipal Corporation gets BB credit rating


Guwahati: The Guwahati Municipal Corporation has clinched a poor "BB" rating on its credit report card, implying a little blot on the organisation's financial resume.
The rating is meant to help financial institutions appraise GMC's strengths and weaknesses before considering an investment.
Fitch Ratings - a credit rating agency - put its seal on the score, going by GMC's weak institutional and technical capabilities and frail "cost recovery" policies.
According to Fitch, a BB rating signifies that payment of financial commitments is uncertain to some degree and the capacity for timely repayment remains more vulnerable to adverse economic changes over time.
The report says that GMC has also been slow in implementation of reforms in comparison to other Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission cities.
The report said given GMC's lack of technical and institutional capacity, the state government has directed the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority to undertake the implementation of the urban renewal mission, including water supply, sewerage and sanitation.
"On the project front, there has been a considerable delay in completion. The physical completion for the projects is below 50 per cent and the impact of cost overrun has been phenomenal for solid waste management project and for procurement of buses," a source said.
Sources said there have already been many concerns raised on the solid waste management services being provided in the city.
On the financial front, the agency says that the corporation has no debt, nor is there any likelihood that it will incur debt in the medium-term, as the entire capital expenditure is being borne by the government.
"This places GMC in an advantageous position, as it gives it the chance to generate revenue without having to plan for capital investments," it says.
Giving details, the report said barring 2007, the corporation maintained surplus revenue, which increased substantially in 2009 and 2010  because of a sudden increase in grants contribution and subsidies from the state government.
On revenue expenditure, barring 2006, the corporation has shown a consistent increase which was mainly on account of establishment expenses, which formed an average of 65.9 per cent of the total revenue expenditure.
Revision of salaries of GMC employees on the lines of the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission came into force in March last year and the salary arrears from January 2006 to February 2010 were paid in two instalments.
Under the Basic Services for Urban Poor mission, 2,260 houses have been sanctioned for the urban poor, for which work has already begun.
Of these, 352 houses are ready, and the remaining are expected to be completed by October.
It says that the city has a reasonably well-developed commercial profile, with a number of small and medium-sized agriculture-based industries and is the only municipal corporation in the state to receive a large proportion of assistance from the government.


assamese movies at digital planetarium of regional science centre guwahati


Guwahati Language will no more be a barrier for sky gazers at the proposed digital planetarium at Regional Science Centre.
The digital movies at the science centre will not only be screened in English but also in Assamese.
“We will be launching the programme in Assamese so that local people can best understand the scientific contents behind the movie. There is no medium better than mother tongue,” project coordinator of the centre V. S. Sharma said.
Many youngsters from rural areas who visit the science centre are not well versed in English and find it difficult to understand the movies.
“Science has to be understood to be enjoyed and for that language should not be a barrier,” Sharma said.
Giving details of the new digital planetarium, the first in the city, Sharma said the technology involves state of art computer processing and projection system.
“The digital projector used in the system is unique in the sense that the projection is not over a flat screen but over a hemispherical dome. The viewers sit under the dome and experience high-resolution video and imagery. The experience is totally grand and unique and first of its kind for the people of the city,” he said.
“Our eyes are trained for looking all-around, that is why this hemispherical projection gives complete experience in contrast to flat screen movies. The hemispherical projection requires special projectors with fish-eye lens,” he said adding that all modern planetariums nowadays use digital technology.
The planetarium is complete and ready for launch. The science centre will be celebrating National Science Day on February 28 with a lot of fanfare.
He said the science centre was planning to show five different movies on this platform and the first show will be on sun.
“The sun, seemingly innocuous as it appears from far off is actually not like this. The surface of sun is very turbulent and often experiences storm. Sometimes, these flares are so strong that it can bring all communication satellite to halt. The height of these solar flares reaches thousands of kilometres. All these technical intricacies are explained in very simple
and lucid manner,” Sharma said.
He said the technology was developed by the scientists and engineers of Regional Science Centre.


WWF strategy after kidnap of its volunteers


WWF rethink after kidnap
Guwahati, Feb. 9: The three kidnapped women WWF volunteers may have been released and raring to rejoin work, but the wildlife organisation is doing a rethink on its security policy, rattled by Sunday’s abduction.
“There has to be a complete rethink on our strategy — for better safety of the volunteers, co-ordination and other aspects,” Sejal Worah, programme director of WWF India, told The Telegraph.
This is the first time in the history of the WWF in India that its volunteers have been taken hostage.
Six members of a tiger census project were kidnapped by an armed group from Ultapani in Chirang last Sunday.
While the three women were released yesterday, the men are still captive.
Worah said work on the tiger census would continue and the volunteers have agreed to go ahead with the project, stressing that this job required very “high levels of commitment and dedication”.
“This incident, though unfortunate, has sho-wn wildlife volunteering to be a new kind of job for those who love to see a different kind of life,” another WWF official said.
The work at Ultapani was almost over and the group was supposed to move to Karbi Anglong and Arunachal Pradesh when the six were abducted.
A round of introspection revealed the security gaps that aided the crime.
First, there were hardly any forest guards around when the volunteers ventured deep into the forests of Ultapani. The volunteers were with activists of a local NGO working as guides.
Second, there was severe lack of co-ordination.
G.C. Basumatary, chief of forest department of the Bodoland Territorial Council, said a written permission was granted to WWF for its volunteers to begin the estimation in the forests, but claimed that the volunteers had no idea of the area where they were venturing into.
Haltugaon DFO R.N. Boro said the volunteers never came to see him before penetrating into the area which has been witnessing evictions.
“They should have at least seen me personally, as this area is not good and necessary arrangements could have been made,” Boro said.
The volunteers were proceeding from Kachugaon to Ultapani under Haltugaon division.
While the administration failed to provide them adequate protection, a section was out to find faults with the youths.
Bibhuti Lahkar, a grassland specialist with an NGO called Aaranyak, said a lot of homework needs to be done before going into the wilds.
The researcher who has worked in Manas said: “There has to be coordination with the authorities, one should have adequate knowledge of the area and keep a low profile.”
While researchers look for safer methods of work, experts fear that Sunday’s abduction would hit conservation activities in Manas, which lost much of its glory to militant depredation.
“This incident has no doubt hit the image of Manas badly,” Jimmy Borah, a wildlife activist, said.


mimosa threatens Orang national park

  Fast growth of Mimosa threatens Orang rhino habitat


Guwahati, Feb. 7: Authorities at the Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park, who are already fighting a tough battle over straying rhinos, may now find it more difficult to combat the problem, with mimosa, an invasive species of plant, engulfing part of the habitat.

Satellite imageries from 1987-2008 have revealed that the wet alluvial grassland, which is an ideal habitat for the one-horned rhinoceros, has decreased by 10.09 square km because of the vigorous growth of mimosas.

Mimosa is a tropical American species, which was imported by tea planters from East Asia in the 1960s, as a nitrogen fixer prior to planting tea. It scrambles vigorously over other plants, forming dense tangled thickets up to 2 metres high and is commonly seen on the roadsides and in moist places.

Recently, a ranger of the park, Salim Ahmed, was injured when a rhino, which had strayed out of the park two days ago and crossed the Brahmaputra to Nagaon and Morigaon districts, traversing around 100km, attacked him.

This has been revealed now in a study done by Pranjit Kumar Sarma, a GIS expert with Aaranyak, on “Land cover change dynamics and future implication analysis in Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park of Assam, using satellite data”.

In 1987, the area under wet alluvial grasslands was 30.63 square km. It decreased to 26.5 square km in 1999 and to 20.54 square km in 2008 while degraded grassland increased from 6.86 square km in 1987 to 10.35 in 1999 and 12 in 2008. There are 64 rhinos in the smallest national park in the state.

A study was carried out to observe the changes in land cover and its impact on rhino habitat in the national park, to understand the causes of land cover change in the park and to create baseline information on the condition of rhino habitat in the park.

Sarma told this correspondent that the area of moist alluvial grasslands would decrease further as no solution had been found to the mimosa problem.

“The study found that mimosa is the biggest threat to the Orang rhino habitat,” he said.

“In fact, it can invade the growth of other surrounding plants completely, which means habitat degradation and loss of biodiversity,” Sarma said.

The study has recommended immediate uprooting of invasive species like mimosa for conservation of rhino habitat in the park.

Another factor for decrease in rhino habitat has been deposition of silt from the Brahmaputra in the national park. Around 8 square km of the park is covered by silt while 0.94 square km area has been eroded by the river.

“Measures should be taken immediately to prevent grazing of cattle and encroachment in the park,” Sarma said.

He said the frontline staff often burnt the park’s grasslands unsystematically, without any scientific guidelines.

Wildlife managers are often ambivalent in their attitude towards fire and successive managers in one area develop different fire policies, he added.

The study recommends that proper ground survey should be done before burning the grasslands.