|The Below Report Authored By :||Mr. Raja Chatterjee,
Secretary, THE JUNGLEES
|Research Works Done By :||Dr. (Mrs.) Meera Bhowmic,
Mrs. Srabani Chatterjee
Mr. Neelanjan Dutta
Mr. Anirbandip Dasgupta
Dr. (Mrs.) Anjali Dasgupta
Mr. Raja Chatterjee
|Pilot Survey Duration :||March 7th – 11th, 1990|
|Interim Survey Duration :||April 27th – 30th, 1990|
|Report Author :||Mr. Raja Chatterjee, Secratery|
|Researchers :||Dr. (Mrs.) Meera Bhowmic (Botany)
Mr. Arup Halder
Mr. Anirbandip Dasgupta
Mr. Aloke R. Das
Dr. (Mrs.) A. Dasgupta (Genetics)
Mr. Raja Chatterjee
|Recipient :||Santuary Superintendent
M.P. State Forest Department
As under Champion's classification falls 'Northern Tropical Moist Deciduous Forest'. The major portion of the Achanakmar Sanctuary comprises of Sal forest but the Northern Part is found with 'Moist Peninsular High Sal forest'. Due to well drained and rich soil condition, Sal forests are placed in M.P. III/II Quality. At some places Sal forms 80% of the crop. Bamboos are common on the hill slopes and valleys. Their growth is luxuriant on hill slopes and tend to become pure. (Source : Base – Line Data on Achanakmar).
Although we have come across some patches of dry deciduous forests near Lamni and Kabir Chabutra Region as well as mixed forest patches along side the big nullah following deep western side of the Achanakmar F.R.H. This entire band of green bio-mass of varying shades in whole of the region offers an unique Biotope to the different species for survival.
Vegetation Supports Avi-fauna :
The forests of Achanakmar Sanctuary are stretched across in all directions on the Maikal Hills, which again is a southward protrusion of the famous Satpura Hill Range. In the context of zoogeography, it is well known that the Satpura Hypothesis outlines the basic patterns of trans-regional animal migration/distribution, in the sense, that the species occurring the South Western province (region according to Zoogeography) has been migrating to the Indo-Gangetic Basin and Himalayan valley ( & vice-versa) for time immemorial. And hence following this guideline, we may conclude that the forest tracts along the Southern slopes of Satpura, which falls in the rain fall zone of South West Monsoon is the best remains of Trans Gondwans Green Belt.
For the Bio-tope mentioned above, our observation include :
i. It holds a fair No. and population of terrestrial species.
ii. It by its floral diversity supports all such life forms those are co-existent and growing
iii. The avi-fauna of the region shows unique diversity with Ethiopian and Indo-Malayan affinity in their rich concentration. Besides, the Bio-tope attracts a rich variety of migratory birds which may be looked upon as the Indicator Species of this pollution free Eco-Zone.
iv. It is needless to mention that these forests and its wild denizens can a till throw more light upon the Satpura Hypothesis and hence should be regarded as a Natural Laboratory of permanent importance.
* The detailed list of Flora-Fauna to be furnished with the final report.
During our pilot and interim curves inside the Achanakmar Sanctuary, we have observed with limited resources, that the river Maniari and some of its tributaries form the major river system of the sanctuary. Although it could not be checked in details whether river Narmada or its tributaries also flow down to contribute to the system. However, an innumerable number of nullahs criss-cross the sanctuary and they all in unison constitute the basic drainage system. Nevertheless, non of these rivers are perennial and go extreme dry during the hot summer months. But interestingly the water disappears from the system from as early as March while the water table lies just beneath the soil surface along river beds. Although it is yet to be ascertained to what extent the table goes down or rises up during the summer or winter periods.
As far as the rain water storage is concerned, the Khuria Dam serves the purpose. A detailed note about the command area and its utility would be supplied in the final report. It may be worthwhile to mention here that the natural catchments areas need further attention on problems of siltation caused by soul-erosion. This problem may be contained by a forestation programme in the degraded or potentially degraded areas. Furthermore, the catchments areas may be artificially extended by linking some of the nullahs to the Khuria Dam. It is also urgent to carefully identify and demarcate some of the low lying areas in the form of natural cavity and/or dried-up tanks where diesel pump sets may be installed to tap the ground water table and make such cavity/tanks watered – round the year.
Upgradation and artificial management ( as may be noticed in the Dudhwa N.P. in U.P., specifically in Banketal tank area) of water regime across the region will help reduce the mean cruising distance of major herbivores that they traverse in search of water and fodder which in turn will effectively cut down their great physical strain which reduces the vitality of animals significantly.
In our pilot and interim survey, a pilot was established beyond argument that the existence of Achanakmar Sanctuary in the near future largely depends on the protection it receives from ever increasing on-slaught on its natural boundary in the form of human encroachment, transport system, forestry operation and potential eco-degradation caused by some industries even at the out-skirt of the forest. Such disturbances may partly be controlled even if it can not be checked totally, but not possibly within the legal status structure of a sanctuary. However, upgradation of the sanctuary’s present status to that of a National Park shall decidedly ensure its existence for the generations to come.
The very location of Achanakmar Sanctuary does afford and demand such status upgradation. Being situated on the lap of Maikal Hills, of which the westernmost fringes form a boundary with the famous Kanha National Park, the present sanctuary region justifies the importance of a potential buffer zone. The Kanha N.P. is fortunately one of the most well protected and managed National Parks of the Sub-continent and does offer plenty of life support systems which is evident in its gene-pool of flora-fauna diversity and content. It may be mentioned here that the species multiplying in the Kanha forests shall definitely require a greater pasture of forests for their solid and genetically un-deformed survival in future.
Here comes the question, where do they go then? The Kanha N.P. may not be allowed to extend in its wild boundary because of the socio-economic geography of its surrounding region. But the species have to survive. It appears that an establishment of a forest corridor with Achanakmar forests may solve the problem.
In that case the Achanakmar shall gain the importance of a buffer zone to Kanha N.P. and should have equal terms of reference about its protection (vide National Park Declaration). Such a corridor shall enhance the migratory movements of animals between Kanha and Achanakmar forests and help preserve the genetic diversity of the species occurring to Satpura belt. The proposed corridor shall also reduce the chances of a potential food scarcity of the animals in the event of any National Catastrophe. And in all likelihood, a green belt shall generate continually along the corridor within years after its demarcation.
However, the following measured may be suggested for setting up of the corridor :
i) To conduct a detailed survey to demarcate the viable forest patches for the proposed corridor.
ii) To campaign and demonstrate the importance of such corridor amongst the people of villages falling en-route.
iii) To settle the land acquisition issues with the Revenue Department vis-à-vis forest department.
iv) To upgrade the degraded forest patches with Sal plantation around monsoon and dig out couple of water tanks within the passage.
v) The erect suitable observatory at places in the corridor to monitor wild life movements round the year.
Alike most of the sanctuaries of the country, the Achanakmar Sanctuary faces its greatest problem from Cattle Grazing. Although it used to be a nagging menace in the earlier years, the problems have been largely contained in the recent past with strong measures adopted by Mr. M.R. Thakre, the sanctuary superintendent after he assumed office. There used to be around 10,000 cattle grazing regularly in interior forests for natural fodder feeding mostly on young Sal and bamboo shoots. Such rampant grazing and browsing did adversely affect the flora’s natural regeneration. Besides, the wild Bovines, Deers & Antelopes compete with such cattles for the limited no. Of grassy patches within the sanctuary. However, few years ago a fenced ranch was set-up for cattle in and around Achanakmar region, which unfortunately had to be abandoned following regular attacks from tiger and other big cats months after its establishment. The cattle then had to be taken away elsewhere dismantling the ranch.
Interestingly, form the good effects of Mr. Thakre’s campaign and action against cattle grazing, the villagers are now largely convinced and educated about the problem and damage done by their cattle to forest. That the cattle’s are prone to carrying check disease which may spread amongst wild animals besides an average cross breading threat.
Nevertheless, whatever restrained condition may now prevail about grazing, steps should be taken to ensure against the menace. To do this, we suggest the following action :
i) To conduct a detailed population survey of cattle.
ii) To earmark an optimum no. of animals per family.
iii) To motivate villagers to contain cattle within village limits by cultivating high quality grasses in the village opens.
iv) To distribute high quality grass seeds and fooder at subsidized prices to villagers.
v) To set up a veterinary centre at Achanakmar.
Achanakmar Sanctuary, like the most others in the country is found to harbour a number of forest villages spreaded all across its regions. The forest dwellers in such villages like their counter-parts elsewhere in the country do sustain themselves chief on agricultural and cattle raising operations. Here in Achanakmar Sanctuary there are 22 villages inside the forest boundary with an approximate population of 5000 heads. Half of the populace is comprised of Baiga Tribes and the rest is inhabited by the tribesmen of Gond, Panika, Dahait and Saunta communities. The Achanakmar area above has 2/3 villages with a total population of 400 heads. The other villages in the sanctuary are Surasdol, Sihawalkar, Bakol, Samardhasan, Bindwal, Chaparwa, Tilsi Dalra etc. Besides agricultural operation and cattle grazing, they regularly collect forest produce and fuelwood from the sanctuary. Needless to say, with their increasing population, the pressure on the natural wealth of the forest mounts to relentlessly. While more impositions are made to check the illegal tree-felling inside the forest, an unscrupulous section of the villagers act as agents of the outside traders. The motivated forest fires with a view to collect half burnt wood, illegal transportation of valuable timber and occasional trap collection/poaching of birds and animals are the major offences they commit.
Although the scenario is not yet alarming but slowly and decidedly turning towards. Reeling under growing population, Forest Departments various embargo fluctuating I.T.D.P. (Integrated Tribal Development Projects) food subsidies vis-a-vis economic pressure, this poor community by and large suffers from some real practical problems and desperately seek every options open to them for redressal by legal or illegal means.
In view of the above problems, it is suggested that a proper study be conducted in the villages of the sanctuary as to how the tribal villagers economic status be elevated by simultaneous minimization of their agricultural operation and cattle grazing practices. And precisely if any alternative land and scope exists for the translocation of these forest villages, partly or entirely towards the fringe of the sanctuary. Otherwise the unchecked growth of the village population inside the forest would attract more civic facilities (reasonably) alongside pollution, continuous human and vehicular movements and the like causing extensive damage and disturbance to wild life therein in near future.
In shot the flourishing of village life in an otherwise meant domain ecology for other forms of life in sanctuary would always continue to meet at cross purposes.
Going by the present state of affairs, we suggest:
i) To identify some alternative living hood for the tribals which would be easy to adopt and more profitable thus reducing agricultural pressure on land.
ii) To organize effective audio-visual campaign amongst the villagers about the purpose of conservation and forest management.
iii) To involve the villagers in as many numbers as possible in the protection an management of the sanctuary’s natural wealth.
iv) To advice an unique scheme for such villagers involvement in above. However, the JUNGLEES would like to volunteer it’s services for the above project if a scope is offered.
In our earnest effort to identify the major threats those posed to the Achanakmar Sanctuary, we observed that the Bilaspur-Pendra-Marwai P.W.D. Road runs a real risk for future upkeep of the Sanctuary. This road originating from Bilaspur stretches upto Achanakmar half through medium or sparsely forested tracts for 58 km. and beyond Achanakmar towards north runs another 65 k.ms. upto Amarkantak Region amid thick and lush green hilly forests of Satpura hills, while at Pendra junction a diversion road proceeds upto Pendra Road station. This criss-crossing of highways through dense vegetation constantly reminded us of the health of the forests of Palamau National Park (Bihar) and Ushakothi Sanctuary (Orissa) where the existence of similar vehicular thoroughfare have permanently pushed back the animals deep inside the woods while giving way to poachers, timber smugglers and illegal forest encroachers to operate around metalled line. However, the P.W.D. road in question carries a fair no. of heavy diesel vehicles round the clock and is decidedly an important arterial route. Needless to say, such traffic movement across hilly terrain cause immense noise and air pollution that suffice to disturb the animals, even sometimes cause death to panicky animals in their attempts to cross road, while otherwise restricting greatly transforest movements, so much necessary for major herbivores and carnivores. Besides the above, this ill planned P.W.D. road offers ample opportunity to animal poachers/timber smugglers and anti-socials to get away with their hauls bribing/threatening check post guards with insufficient weapons and no communication facilities. If not today, the threats would loom heavy upon the fate of the sanctuary in near future unless steps are taken against.
However, keeping in view the present importance of this major thoroughfare for public and goods movement, we can submit our following views for due consideration of the state forest department and respective authorities :
i) The vehicular traffic should be diverted through another state-way called Kota Belgehana P.K.D. roads for the purpose the said road may be suitably repaired and widened.
ii) Till such diversion route comes into positive effect, the present P.W.D. road through Achanakmar should be kept open to vehicular traffics only during day time between 8.00 – 16.00 hours.
iii) The numbers of check-posts along present carriage way should be increased with radio-communication facilities and armed forest Guards as to monitor the traffic flow.
iv) Concessional toll-tax may be offered to bulk-container operators to make goods transport economic. Toll-tax should be done away with the other route (Kota-Belgehana) to encourage increasing movement in that sector while the same may be doubled at Achanakmar – Pendra route.
v) Gradually only passenger traffic should be allowed to ply through the present route.
In view of the Achanakmar’s huge floral and faunal wealth that lies barely guarded at the moment and eventually stand a chance of being illegally transported or poached, it is strongly recommended that the intra forest communication facilities be made automatic and wireless.
Such facilities shall undoubtedly ensure a better guarding of natural wealth as well as the future of the forests. The importance of equipping the sanctuary with wireless communication facilities are two fold:
i) T monitor the wild-life movement, anti-poaching measures, illegal timber transportation, traffic flow within the forest.
ii) To facilitate census operation, improvement guarding facilities in terms of vigilance as well as forest management (including forest fire, Kendu leaf collection, future tourist load).
In this regard, a message receiving-cum-transmission set may be installed at range offices nearer to Korba-side, Kanha side, Chaparwa and at two major entry/exit points with the station head quarter at Kota.
As the major Indian Sanctuaries, those barbour huge varieties and population of animals and birds are all equipped with radio communication support system, it may be justifiably expected that Achanakmar forest Administration would follow the way to ensure the future of its rich wild denizens and shall pave the way for National Park creation.