When it comes to the protection of Kaziranga tiol Park, the State government straightaway falls onto the defensive. If the Governor asks questions which any right-thinking, concerned citizen would ask, Dispur takes recourse to bluster or outright falsehood. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi points to rhinos being poached in other parts of the world. The present Forest minister professes ignorance about Bangladeshi settlers encroaching into the park, while his predecessor had a running battle with the media about ‘sensatiolising’ rhino killings. Now the tiol Green Tribul has vindicated public concerns, recently delivering a stinging rebuke to Dispur for lapses and anomalies in the park’s maintence. After going through last year’s performance audit of KNP magement by the Comptroller and Auditor General, the tribul has posed some tough questions to the State government. Why is Dispur still dragging its feet over declaring Kaziranga an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ), as directed by the Central government back in July, 2013? The ESZ would have incorporated not only the park area, but would have extended to 10 kms from its boundaries, thereby ensuring its effective patrolling and protection. Why has nothing been done to clear the rampant commercial encroachment of entire stretches alongside tiol Highway No 37 running through the park? The CAG had recommended steps to free the section from Burhapahar to Bokakhat from illegal encroachments, as well as to clear immediately the dhabas, resorts, hotels and truck parkings within a fixed time-frame from this stretch. However, this suggestion too had fallen upon Dispur’s deaf ears. Meanwhile mining activities continue in the Karbi Anglong Hills, where animals escape to when the park is flooded.
The CAG report had revealed how more than 70 commercial eateries, eco-camps and even residential houses have come up within one to three kilometres of the boundary of KNP — thereby endangering wildlife, already at risk of unchecked poaching. Now the Green Tribul has issued notices to these commercial encroachers in the park, asking why they should not be made to pay compensation for despoiling the environment. But will the Tarun Gogoi government have the gumption to probe how dhabas and resorts illegally mushroomed in the World Heritage site, how the Circle Offices of Bokakhat and Koliabor allowed uuthorised changes in land holding patterns, how people of suspect tiolity came to settle within the park? Were government officials bribed off to look the other way? Which political quarters stand to benefit by encouraging Bangladeshi encroachers? Observing the ‘iction’ of the Assam government over the CAG report it had published last year, the Green Tribul has sought an action taken report within three weeks from Dispur. It has also called for a detailed project report within three months on long-term measures to facilitate movement of wildlife across the KNP, primarily over NH 37 during normal times as well as floods in the rainy season. The required measures include construction of flyovers, under-passes, tunnels and other devices by which animals may safely cross the highway, without being run over by speeding vehicles. So after environmental protection groups, the CAG and the Assam Governor failed to rouse the Tarun Gogoi government from its stupor, it is now the Green Tribul that the people of the State are pinning their hopes upon for Kaziranga’s protection.