The last remaining semi-evergreen forest in Assam’s Biswanath district, Behali Reserve Forest has been given the status of wildlife sanctuary as per a preliminary notification by the Assam government. The final notification is being awaited.
The gazette notification said, “The Governor of Assam hereby appoints the Deputy Commissioner of Biswanath District to act as a Collector under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, to inquire into and determine the existence, nature and extent of rights of any person in or over the land comprised within the limits described in the Schedule.”
Popular for being a biodiversity hotspot, Behali Reserve Forest has been seeking the status for a while now. Declared in 1917, the forest is home to hundreds of species of flora and fauna but has been struggling with the perils of illegal encroachment and deforestation. Its geographical area, which once included 140 sq km of dense foliage, has now been reduced to almost half.
Situated in the north of the Brahmaputra river, Behali is situated at a disputed border between Assam and Arunachal. With Kaziranga National Park as its close neighbour, the reserve forest serves as an elephant corridor, while dealing with encroachers from both states that often cut down trees for agricultural practices. Relatively unexplored, there are hopes that a wildlife sanctuary designation will bring Behali the attention it deserves.