22.24 square kilometre Bhairabkunda Reserve Forest, which lies 100 km away from Guwahati in the Udalguri district, was barren due to illegal logging. An unfortunate consequence of such rampant deforestation was rising man-animal conflicts, particularly elephants, who wander into nearby villages in search of food.
Today, however, this patch of land is marked by tall rubber trees, a plethora of other plant species and thriving fauna like elephants, leopards, mongoose, python, deer, wild boars, various species of snakes and migratory birds.
Former militants from the Bodo community, who gave up their armed struggle for secession from India and just over ten years ago, began this noble reforestation initiative. This 35-member group of former armed militants have dedicated the past ten years into restoring the ecological balance of their homeland. Led by Ismail Daimari, this group first surrendered their arms and instead of living on the government’s dole in relief camps, approached the government for a portion of the uncultivated land on a 50-year lease.
They haven’t looked back, and this process resulted in the regeneration of this once-barren land. Assistance from the central government was promised, but Ismail tells Sputnik News that this help hasn’t been forthcoming. The group managed to convert this barren land into a forest with assistance from locals in the surrounding six villages (Sonaigaon, Bhairabpur, Goroimari, Sapangaon, Mazargaon-1, and Mazargaon-2), using traditional means.
Besides the plantation, this 35-member group and other villagers have constructed canals, sourcing water from nearby rivers to nourish this man-made forest.