Even as union forest and environment minister Prakash Javadekar made his maiden visit to Kaziranga National Park on Friday, different environment NGOs and other organizations asked him to institute a CBI probe into the increasing number of rhino poaching cases in the world’s largest habitat of one-horned Indian rhinoceros.
Representatives of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) were the most vocal when Javadekar first interacted with different groups immediately after he landed in Guwahati on Friday. Before taking a chopper to Kaziranga, about 220 kms from here, he told reporters that the BJP government believed in community involvement in protecting wildlife and forests.
“The government believes in saving forests and wildlife with strong community participation. Wherever forests have thrived, it is more because of the people, especially the tribal communities,” he said.
The AASU said while the Assam government had failed to protect rhinos in Kaziranga, the Centre had remained a mute spectator. “Why can’t the rhinos be saved from poachers who have now shifted to using sophisticated AK-series weapons. We suspect there is some serious problem somewhere, some nexus too,” said AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattacharyya. At least 26 rhinos have been killed this year by poachers.
Later, addressing a meeting of local groups and communities in Kaziranga, Javadekar said the government wants to increase India’s overall forest cover from the existing 24 per cent to over 33 per cent. “It is a challenging task. But I think it will be possible through community participation and hard work. It might take 10 to 15 years,” he said.