TODAY -

Kalamati, a Glance

Kalpana Thaoroijam *



Standing beside the clear waters of Kanamakra or the Blind Spider; Kalamati is a haunt for elephants from Kuklung, Basuki, Mwidert khor, Ajimora, Panbari forests, and other wild life visiting the area for salt-licks. Kalamati is the black soil, which is salty.

Kalamati, with its black soil deposit


Kalamati is approachable from Koilamoila, the nearest market place. Located in Chirang district, BTAD, Assam, it is an integral part of Manas Reserve Forests in the western buffer zone of Manas National Park.

The area is under Chirang Forest Division, a part of Aie Valley Division. Kalamati is surrounded by completely unlike landscapes extending across Bhutan foothills. Each landscape features unusual and distinctive characteristics.

For instance, Maoria Hajw is known for orchids. Maoria means 'orphan' and Hajw means 'hill'. There are no other hills near Maoria Hajw.

Hajw Agor


Hajw Agor, literally means the hills with design. It is said that it displays seven colours - red, white, black, yellow, green, navy blue & sky blue during the day.

Mwidert Khor is the elephant trapping area. In ancient times, kings would summon his subjects to make a boundary, and they laid fruits, grasses, water and shelter to keep their domestic elephants inside the forest.

The forest elephants would enter the boundary and normally get adjusted with the domestic elephants. Thus, they would bring back the wild elephants along with their domestic ones.

FLORA AND FAUNA

An array of flora & fauna dominates the area, with each region having specific feature. It is a hub for medicinal plants, many edible wild fruits and herbs.

Golden Langur here relishes a variety of orchid. One can also find wild dog, rhesus macaque, spotted deer, civets, leopard, porcupine, wild boar, giant squirrel, flying squirrel, and pangolin.

Besides, there are other rare and endemic fauna, such as Asian elephant, Indian bison, royal tiger, peafowls, hornbill, few species of turtles, otter, Himalayan bear, sloth bear, etc. There are many different kinds of birds and reptiles too.

PRESENT SCENARIO

Massive deforestation is taking place inside the forest area for the last few decades. And the problem lies largely with the involvement of militant groups in the rampant felling, and transporting of timber out of the area with help from locals.

But we cannot deprive the communities of their livelihood support unless we provide them with an alternative source, and cease the act altogether.

THE FOREST PROTECTION TASK FORCE

About 2 kms away from main Koilamoila market is the Forest Protection Task Force camp maintained by New Horizon, a community-based conservation NGO.

Deforestation


New Horizon members have been playing an active role in the conservation of forest in the area. They are also involved with awareness through community meetings, children groups, and sometimes at individual level.

The Forest Protection Task Force is an initiative of the BTAD government to keep vigil of the forest resources in its four districts i.e. Chirang, Kokrajhar, Baksa and Udalguri. There are 20-25 young volunteers in every camp, taking shifts to patrol and protect the forest area on foot without much remuneration or surety for future benefits.

It is disheartening to see the obstacles the young boys have to encounter everyday inside the forest. They are not allowed to take law into their hands and abide legal rules. Thus, from time to time, the boys are motivated to work with full dedication. After all, it's not an easy way of life.

The Forest Protection Task Force in action


The Task Force periodically seizes equipments used by the woodcutters/ poachers during their regular patrolling. On the other hand, the woodcutters/ poachers usually threaten and even attack the camp, sometimes severely injuring the boys.

However, the situation does not deter their commitment to protect the forests. In the last few years, individuals and groups from all different parts of the world have started supporting some of the Task Force groups in BTAD area with small grants for uniform, shoes, ration, equipment, torch, kukri etc.

HOW TO REACH?

Kalamati is located approximately 39 km via Bijni (in shared Sumo or taxi) from Bongaigoan town, the nearest railway station, or via Chapaguri (crossing rivers and streams) is 24 km. Koilamoila bazar is the entry point to Kalamati, which is only 17 km away.

One can reach Koilamoila on NH-31A from Guwahati covering a distance of 220 km.

ECO-TOURISM PROSPECTS

Individual or group or department alone cannot do Forest protection. But as a whole, people can bring larger change. Eco-tourism is a means that will add to the conservation principles and support the economic condition of the communities.

Kalamati is a prospective tourist's site and there is scope for the development of Eco-tourism as an alternative livelihood for the communities.

Different groups of people inhabit the fringe villages of Kalamati. Bodos are the major dominant group, and are mostly plain tribes of Assam. They love to stay close with nature and are colourful people!

There are several trekking routes in the area, and can be entered passing via aesthetically serene surroundings. Just 3km from Kalamati is Golthek point, the orange collection point, which is a potential tourist spot.

About 15-20 Bhutanese families camp at this point for 3 months with all their food and basic necessities during the winter months for collection of oranges from the forest.

THE VISION

To conserve forest, we cannot work solely with a group or community but to reach out to all different groups. For conservation to be effective, we need to look into the communities' mindset, without whom, conservation is almost impossible.

We have to assist with an alternative livelihood that will minimize the communities' dependence on forests. Rapid awareness on negative impacts of deforestation is necessary to sensitize the communities.

Their participation can only bring sustainable conservation by managing forests wisely, and reduce more destruction, more denudation of forests.

At the moment Eco-tourism prospects need to take backseat, and conservation initiatives need immediate attention to safeguard Kalamati.

But it is here we need to include the local inhabitants; without their support conservation of forest will be incomplete.


* Kalpana Thaoroijam wrote this article for "Ecotone" - A joint publication of Environ, Guwahati (Assam) and NECEER, Imphal (Manipur) - Vol.1 Issue 1 Oct. 2009.
Kalpana Thaoroijam is a Development Associate, Eco-tourism Project, The ANT (Action Northeast Trust) located at Rowmari, Chirang District, BTAD, Assam.
This article was webcasted on November 10th, 2009.




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