Tourism dose to save Jokai forest – NEC grants Rs 2.34 crore to turn woods into adventure haunt for visitors

Dibrugarh, April 26: The ill-guarded Jokai reserve forest has received a financial tonic of Rs 2.34 crore from the Centre, which will help turn the woods into an eco-tourism haunt, complete with huts and ethnic cuisine.

The North Eastern Council has agreed to finance the Rs 2.34 crore Jokai Botanical Garden Development and Eco-tourism Project after repeated pleas from the Dibrugarh forest division.

The eco-tourism project will come up next to the Jokai Botanical Garden and Germplasm Centre, 15km from Dibrugarh town.

“We are going to add another 35 hectares to the existing 32 hectares of the botanical garden. Species on the verge of extinction will be planted in these areas. Moreover, we will also have a library adjacent to the interpretation centre. We will arrange for screening of movies and documentaries on weekends for students and visitors,” Anurag Singh, the divisional forest officer of Dibrugarh division, said.

“There will also be an orchid house, since Jokai has around 20 to 25 varieties of orchids,” the DFO said.

A huge water body — called erashuti — near the reserve forest is home to various kinds of indigenous fishes and turtles. “Utmost care has been taken not to disturb the habitat of the water fowls which build their nests in these water bodies. Nesting, laying of eggs by fowls will be a rare sight for visitors to watch from a designated distance in countryboats. We will not allow mechanised boats,” Singh, an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer, said.

The department will also construct eco-huts in and around the erashuti for tourists.

There will be performances in the evenings by cultural troupes from villages on the fringe of the forest.

During the day, visitors can trek, take elephant rides or a jeep safari.

“All the proceeds will go towards maintenance of the amenities as well as socio-economic development of the surrounding villages,” Singh added.

The Jokai reserve forest, like many others of its kind, sanctuaries and national parks of the state, is very poorly guarded.

“For an area of around 1,300 hectares, there are only seven forest staff headed by a beat officer. This is totally inadequate. The government must urgently address this issue in order to preserve the forest,” Nakul Khound, the co-ordinator of IRAB-KIRAB, an NGO, said.

“Conservation and protection of forests is an issue which the department cannot address single-handedly. For this, we need co-operation from the local community. This is why we have decided to involve the local people in the project so that they can earn something out of the venture,” the DFO said.

From THE TELEGRAPH

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