Eco-travel

A visit to Buxa

A visit to Buxa 
-Anindya Das*

Wildlife- When you hear this word, you start associate it and imagine different creatures and animals which are non domesticated with a common background of thick green jungles. In India, almost each and every state has got an area covered with thick vegetation or jungles, with their unique features, which has got national importance. West Bengal, a state known for its unique art and culture, is also covered by jungles, mainly at its north (Duars) and some parts in the southern corner (sunderban). Duars have always fascinated me, due to its geographical location. Vegetation extending from plains 
to the mountains of eastern Himalaya, pose a breathtaking view. 

A view of Buxa Tiger Reserve

Buxa Forest

The jungles of Duars are sub divided into many parts and we decided to experience and see the biggest jungle of north Bengal: Buxa tiger reserve. This national reserve also extends itself up to Bhutan. The common entry point of the jungles of Buxa is from Alipurduar city and the first village or  moderately populated area coming from Alipurduar is Rajabhatkhawa. 
But if anyone wants to stay in the jungle, Jayanti (a small village in the jungle alongside river Jayanti from where the name of place has been derived) is the perfect location. We arranged our stay in Jayanti village. As a tourist and admirer of pure nature, I always look for destinations which we can explore by walking. Jayanti is slowly gathering importance since it ensures breathtaking view and one can stay inside the jungle. According to the locals, number of tourists per year has grown extensively over a span of just two years and thus local business has boomed which is boosting the economy of the village. Although a good sign for the economy but surely it is disturbing the beautiful nature that it exists there and the associated wildlife of the jungle.

While staying in Jayanti, we went to some of the known destinations in and around. First we went to a place called Pukhri top. It’s a lake considered holy by the locals. One of the interesting facts with this lake is, fishing is prohibited in this lake. 

After that, we took a safari ride of the jungle. Much too my amusement, I found the jungle on the other side of the river Jayanti to be less vegetated. It was due to frequent cutting of trees for wood. And when asked about the purpose of making woods, the answer was to build more resorts to accommodate more tourists like you. 
Although we couldn’t spot a single wild animal during our safari, we came back and rested for the rest of the night. The next day we went for a jungle trek to a cave called Mahakal. The route is fascinating which ensures frequent river crossing and climbing streams up the mountain. The route guarantees some of the magnificient views of the jungles and mountains merged together. Its hard to spot any wild animal in this route but the hills beside you engrossed with big trees and bushes will make you shiver if you are alone.

Forests near Jayanti Reserve

Jungle around Jayanti Village

Coming back from this short trek we had our lunch in our resort and we were about to set for our next destination. In between, I was just walking on the river jayanti which has completely dried in the month of December and admiring the beauty in front, I spotted some of the boys who have came there for a picnic. As usual with their ordinary picnic items they were having alcohol. Astonishingly, when they were finished they just threw the bottle in the river, and it got smashed as it got hit on to a rock. The rivers are frequently used by the elephants and many other animals. According to the locals, these glass pieces often get stuck on the foot of these animals, and the pain makes them go mad, which in turn causes massacre in some of the nearby villages. Spotting the incident I quickly informed some of the locals, and went with them to the spot. The boys seemed reluctant about what they have done and hardly cared about the wild animals or the nature.
 
Frustrated, me along with some of the locals started gathering the large glass pieces but it hardly solved the matter. 

Pukhri Lake

The problem is awareness. We humans, in each and every location and situation, want to show that we are superior. We can’t tolerate others leaving peacefully. In the same trip, along with Buxa we also visited a forest range called Chillapata.  We were having safari ride, and in front of us were two other jeeps, which was boarded by a group where all were newly married couples (don’t know whether they were on a honeymoon or any casual trip). During the course of safari, the moment they were sighting any animal or a bird in the distance, they became so excited that actually they started screaming as if they have spotted ghosts. Even after repeated warning by the forest officials accompanying us, there level of excitation never dropped down, and in the process the animals used to ran away from our sight. People fail to understand that forests and jungles are the natural habitat of these wild animals, it’s not a zoo. We are bound to obey the laws of nature when we are on the lap of nature and maintain peace and co-existence. These types of uneventful incidences also pose threats to humans when they encounter a disturbed wild animal. An obvious solution is to stop tourism and restrict flow of humans entering forest or wildlife area. But in that process people will hardly know about wildlife and the associated local people will run out of business. Then what is ideal and necessary? A serious discussion is needed.
 
*     Anindya Das is a Senior Research Fellow, MST Division, Ph.D scholar, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Department, IIT Kharagpur.  He can be contacted at anindyadvc@gmail.com and at Mobile No. +917797137531 

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