Environmental groups have urged the Centre to declare Dibru-Saikhowa National Park as a tiger reserve in the hope that it will attract funds.
According to official data, the national park, spread across Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts with a total area of 765 square km, including the 340 square km core zone, had 31 tigers in 2001-2002.
Although the number has gone down because of lack of conservation efforts and some other factors, it is roughly estimated that the park still has around 15 tigers.
During the 2010 tiger census — reports of which were released recently — pugmarks were found in three areas of the park. “We have seen that the many small reserves with only three or four tigers have been accorded the status of tiger reserve which has helped them receive crores of rupees. It is unfortunate that the Centre and the state government has so far neglected the park compared to other national parks of the state,” the secretary of Dibru-Saikhowa Conservation Society, Joynal Abedin, said.
In 2003, the then state joint secretary of forests and present Lakhimpur deputy commissioner Anwaruddin Choudhury had written to the then chief conservator of forests (wildlife) M.C. Malakar to take up the matter of according tiger reserve status to Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Dhansiri reserve forest in Karbi Anglong.The proposal was forwarded to the Centre by Malakar. However, the Centre has failed to take any steps on the issue, which has irked nature lovers and also given them a chance to press for tiger reserve status for Dibru-Saikhowa.
“Despite being rich in its flora and fauna, apart from being a treasure hub of orchids, the Assam government has never given importance to the park. Therefore, we urge the government to accord the status of a tiger reserve to Dibru-Saikhowa so that conservation efforts can be carried out in the real sense,” Niranta Gohain, director of Wave Eco-Tourism, another NGO, said.
There are five tiger reserves in the Northeast — Kaziranga, Nameri and Manas in Assam, Namdapha in Arunachal Pradesh and Dampa in Mizoram.
With the formation of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laying much stress on the conservation of tigers in India, the NGOs feel that according the status of tiger reserve is the only option for development of Dibru-Saikhowa.
However, the divisional forest officer of the national park, Vaibhav Mathur, said, “In the present circumstances it would be totally unscientific to declare Dibru-Saikhowa a tiger reserve.”
“There is a huge human population inside the core zone of the park, which has created a lot of pressure upon the national park. Firstly, this population of over 10,000 needs to be a relocated. There are several other issues like acute shortage in manpower as well which needs to be addressed,” he added.