Manas haven for muga
The muga silkworms that give Assam its famous golden thread now have a sanctuary on the fringes of Manas National Park.
A senior official of Central Silk Board said the move aimed at conserving the germplasm of muga silkworm as its habitats were fast eroding because of rapid deforestation for agriculture and human habitation.
The initiative is a collaboration of Central Silk Board and the department of sericulture, Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). Altogether 100 acres of land have been demarcated in the Rangijora area of Kuklung forest range in Chirang district in Manas National Park.
The sanctuary was inaugurated on June 5 in the presence of Deven Boro, executive member, department of sericulture, BTC, Prafulla Kumar Hazowary, secretary, BTC, Kokrajhar, and Sarat Deori, joint secretary, Central Silk Board, ministry of textiles, among others.
“Being a single species silkworm, rearing of the stock in the same place for more than three to four generations shows an inherent tendency of inbreeding depression as indicated by the loss of its tolerance capacity to environmental variations. The germplasm is also fast depleting due to unabated deforestation and human intervention. To check further erosion of the valuable genetic resource of muga silkworm, there is an urgent need for conservation of muga in its wild habitat and to establish a sanctuary to conserve this valuable resource in its natural habitat,” Deori toldThe Telegraph here.
Another problem is that muga silkworm had always been grown outdoors and is prone to die in large numbers because of factors like global warming, climate fluctuations and pollution besides predators and diseases.
Muga, the golden yellow silk, is obtained from semi-domesticated silkworm, Antheraea assamensis. Earlier, several attempts were made by the line departments to conserve muga silkworms in the wild by demarcating a specific reserve forest as wildlife sanctuary. The attempts, however, failed because of administrative reasons.
The sanctuary has been set up in the BTC area, as it is an important seed pocket of muga and contributes about 30 per cent to the state’s silk output. Weaving is an integral part of Bodo culture and many families rear their own silkworms, the cocoons of which are spun into silk. Bodo girls learn to weave from a young age and no Bodo courtyard is complete without a loom.
“The present local (semi-domestic) stock is less tolerant to environmental factors causing diseases. For revitalisation of the existing stock, evolution of a variety or developing a vigorous breed is required for which exploitation of the genetic resource in the wild is required,” a scientist at Central Silk Board said.
Of the total Assam silk production of 2,019 metric tonnes in 2011-12, the production of muga was 115 metric tonnes. Muga provides self-employment to more than 44,000 families, including ancillary units, in the state. “It is an excellent initiative for conservation of muga germplasm and the area is suitable,” the divisional forest officer of Chirang, Suvasish Das, said.