Villagers oppose wildlife sanctuary in place of Kakoijana forest in Assam

Guwahati: Villagers living next to the forest in Kakoijana Reserve in Bongaigaon district of Assam have opposed the state government’s decision to designate the area as a wildlife sanctuary as they believe it will take away their rights.

The forest is home to the golden langur (Trachypithecus geei), characterized by its striking golden-orange coat and found only in Assam and Bhutan, which is among the “world’s 25 most endangered primates”.

The Assam Forest Department has recently released a Preliminary Notification for the 19.85 sq km Kakoijana Bamuni Hill Wildlife Sanctuary under the Aie Valley Division.

A total of 34 villages with a population of around 2,000 households remain adjacent to the reserve forest. The inhabitants are mostly from the communities of Koch Rajbongshi, Boro, Garo, Rabha and Gorkha.

“We consider some of the areas inside the forest to be sacred and their sanctity must be maintained. The joint forest management committee in the surrounding villages is doing a good job in protecting the forest and has a complex relationship with the forest,” the villagers said in a memorandum.

Bogoriguri Rabhapara villagers say they have been protecting and conserving the flora and fauna of the Kakoijana Reserve forest for more than 25 years.

“Our dedication and sincere efforts to revive the reserve’s forest have yielded positive results in restoring the forest cover from less than 5% to over 70% and the golden langur population from less than 100 to over 600 in during the period,” they said. said in a memorandum.

The golden langur is an endangered primate endemic to semi-evergreen and mixed deciduous forests along the India-Bhutan border. It was discovered in 1953 by naturalist EP Gee. Kakoijana is one of the main habitats of the golden langur. It was previously listed as endangered in the IUCN Red List and is listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972).

Villagers said the imposition of rigid laws under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 by turning Kakoijana Reserve forest into a wildlife sanctuary would alter customary and traditional practices and therefore cause them to lose community ownership of the forest.

“Such a decision would not only ruin our credibility, but also reverse the conservation process,” they pleaded.

Villagers have called on the government to drop the idea of ​​a wildlife sanctuary and instead convert the reserved forest into Community Forest Resources (CFRs) using the Forest Rights Act to ensure a co-managed participation system by the community for sustainable conservation.

“We stand with the indigenous communities residing around the Kakoijana Forest Reserve and respect their rights under the Forest Rights Act. As they have conserved and protected the flora and fauna of the forest for many years, they want the forest to remain a community forest resource instead of converting it into a sanctuary. We support the position of the communities,” said Tejesh Tripathy, President of Nature’s Foster, Bongaigaon. IsMojo.

Nature’s Foster is a non-governmental organization that has worked in the Kakoijana Forest Reserve for almost 25 years.

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