Sunday, March 18, 2012

North East Chronicles - 8-B : Jorhat and Golaghat - land of 4 surprises - (contd)

(This is the second and final article about the major areas in the Jorhat - Golaghat belt.  The first part covered Jorhat and Majuli.)

...From Jorhat - the jewel of Assam, we move to the neighbouring district of Golaghat. 

Golaghat is complete opposite to Jorhat.  When you back-pack for a trip here, you will see that life is simple and unsophisticated.  This is one of the most backward districts of Assam- a laid back, non-industrialized belt. It borders Nagaland.   The main occupation is working in the tea plantation and agriculture. 

The home of Kaziranga
Golaghat literally means a market and a small river port.  The Dhansiri  is the main river that flows through this district originating from Nagaland.   The district predominantly contains tea gardens.    The major tourist attraction is the Kazianga National Park, a world heritage site.

The only major industry in this district is the Numaligarh refinery Limited.  Numaligarh, where the refinery is built also houses a small fort built by an Ahom prince. 

Surprise 3: Numaligarh - the sophisticated refinery

The background story makes the story of the origin of this refinery interesting.

There was an inflex of Bangladesh refugees during the 1970's and the early 1980's into Assam - since the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.   This inflex created a social imbalance in the lower Assam area.   From 1979-1985, a group of youngsters under the leadership of Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and the banner of All-Assam Student Union agitated to bring justice to the people of Assam.

On the independence day of 1985,  Rajiv Gandhi and Prafulla signed a treaty which has come to be known as Assam Accord.  This Accord facilitated the creation of educational and industrial institutions for the development of Assam.

Out of this was born the Numaligarh Refinery Limited or the Assam Accord refinery.  This is mainly owned by BPCL.  The construction started in 1993 and was inaugurated in 2000, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee dedicated this master piece to the nation.   I led the team that created the network backbone of this refinery.  

NRL- a dream come true for Assam
I can still remember the glowing lights from a distance.   There is a sprawling township which houses the staff, officer and partners.   

The first time, in this lap of nature, night life was on - for the people and not for the nocturnal animals!  Out of the pitch black of the Kaziranga is this ethereal creation, that represents the dream of the local people.  

I met some wonderful people during my one year stay.   My next couple of chronicles are dedicated to these beautiful minds that created a state-of-art refinery which contributed to the local peoples.  

 Surprise 4: Kaziranga- the home of the one horned rhino

It is the most temperamental animal in the world.  Also it will stamp out small bush fires - hence called the local fire fighter.  Both the male and the female of the species possess one horn.   The female is generally more aggressive.  Males fight for mating and dominance.  But females fight for protecting the kids - and hence are always are on the alert.   They can run at 55 kmph, and swim easily.   Hence, if you are smart, don't walk into one!
The one-horned rhino
in Kaziranga

The one horned rhino, the largest of the Asian rhinos has its final habitat in Kaziranga.  Kaziranga has three etymological origins.  One is the story of a Kazi  (a boy) and Ranga ( a girl) who fell in love and were not socially acceptable.  Another story is about a couple (Kazi-ranga) being blessed by Swami Sankar Deva.   Couple of other origins are - Kajir ( a girl) ruled these parts.  Another origin indicates it to be the land of red(rangai) goats ( Kaji).  

Lady Curzon contributed
to the birth of Kaziranga
Kaziranga was created way back in 1904.  Lady Curzon visited this place to see the Rhino that year, but could not sight one.  She asked Lord Curzon to make this place a protected entity.  From then on, it has been protected in different forms and shapes. 

The Assam Government declared this park as a National Park in 1974 - the year I was born.   United Nations declared this as a world heritage site in 1985 considering the fragile nature of this unique ecosystem.  

Apart from the unihorned rhino, the place is also famous for having the highest density of tiger population in the world.   The Indian elephant also is a key part of the ecosystem.   It also is the home for the only ape found in India, the Hoolock Gibbon.  Kaziranga has the largest population of the wild water buffalo anywhere accounting for about 57% of the world population.

Kaziranga - a delicate eco system
Kaziranga supports a diverse animal population.   Reptiles, birds, carnivores and other herbivores form part of the ecosystem.   The list is endless and comprises of many endangered species. The flora and fauna of Kaziranga is a nature, animal and bird watcher's dream.   A heady cocktail of interdependent species, this.  

The place is made rich by the fertile alluvial soil.  There are wetlands surrounded by long grass tracts.  The elephant grass is a common feed for the herbivores. The frequent flooding, and controlled burning of dry grass help the ecosystem recycle the greenery.  

Rise in Rhino and
Elephant population
in Kaziranga
The single most factor that governs the topography of the land is the way Brahmaputra flows.  There have been significant losses in wild life population due to unpredicable floods of the mighty river.   The second biggest problem is manmade.  

Poaching, tourism and traffic have resulted in death and stress of the inhabitant fauna.  The NH-37 traffic has accounted for more than a few elephant and rhino deaths.   Flooding drives the animals to the higher fringes of the park occasionally, where they become susceptible to human intervention.

However, the authority of Kaziranga, has done a good job is saving the three main inhabitants - the one horned rhino, the tiger and the Indian elephants.   The populations of the elephants and rhinos are increasing, and the project tiger implementation has been successful.   

Personally, I had a close encounter with an elephant in the year 2000.   Couple of times, I have sighted the tiger of Kaziranga.   The best part - the majestic and temperamental one-horned rhino is the one, I always wanted to see, and I could see them many a time during my tenure here.  

Some stories to follow, in this laid-back land!

-The One

(Pics courtesy Wickepedia, and other sources acknowledged)


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