View Full Version : The prolonged flood situation in Manas – contributing towards the changes in ecosyste

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:02 PM
Manas, this is where I lost my heart as I did in childhood village house where I spent my days playing with my elder brother smearing our bodies with clay, having gala moments with the local rustic countrymen and lastly, if not the least, being pampered by my parents in my childhood days. Manas is just like that where dusk of evenings gathered as soon as the days ended in the villages of the Assamese, Bodo tribes. The owls call near the entrance of the Bansbari range the way they used to do that on the roof of the rice-storage room in our house. The first beams of mellow sun-rays flood the Fatemabad tea estate the way it did in courtyard of our house through the branches of the trees. In the middle of the rainy seasons heavy rains downpours through the dark sky in the deep forests along the fringe areas of Bhutan the same way it does in the mango and jack-fruit plantations of our house.

This rainy season I could manage to visit Manas twice; once during the onset of the monsoon and once during its end. The Manas turns almost inaccessible and formidable to the visitors from outside. It is not so easy to get a permission from the Forest Department for the entry, to collect information regarding the condition of the roads, to find a Gipsy to get there into the forest during this period. Still, I got a fair chance to visit Manas once again this time. This visit, to say the truth, is not only to see through the eyes of a researcher, not a visit by an analyst either. It was a visit by a common man who wants to feel the wild in the wilderness and to explore the Manas with curious eyes. I have an yearning not only for the bio diversity of the Manas, but also for its landscapes, for its unparalleled ecosystems, for the rivers and rivulets coming down from the hills of Bhutan, for the different tribes of people who live near fringe areas in scattered manner and their simple and effortless lifestiles centered around the forest, for the political turnarounds and the adversities arising out of that –I want to fully grasp all of these. And when I think of Manas I draw its picture in my mind with all of these and Its landscape is close to my soul. So, I am in no hurry to narrate all my feelings concerning this land at a time. My love for Manas has just began...

A slag at Mathanguri FRH campus, Bhutan border.

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:10 PM
Manas Tiger Reserve is 2837.31 square kms [Core area 526.22 sq. kms. and buffer area 2310.88 sq. kms] and includes four different tribal people dominated districts, namely Kokrajhar, Chirang, Baksa in the south-west and Udalguri in the east. The whole area has been demarketed as Important birding area, Elephant reserve, Tiger reserve, Biosphere reserve and Natural World Heritage Site. Many different types of tribes live in this region namely, Bodo, Assomia, Rava, Koch-Rajbangshi, Garo, Bengali, Saontal etc, among which the Bodos constitute the majority. The BTAD[ Bodoland Territorial Area District] has been formed comprising these four districts in the year 2003 and are governed by the BTC[Bodoland Territorial Council] From the eighties the Bodos have been engaged in terrorist activities in favour of their campaign for a separate Bodoland. Very recently, many such separatists have renounced terrorism and have joined the mainstream society. They are now in control of the BTC since many years and are now a part of the present government of Assam.But the NDFB(S) [National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Sangbijit)]Assam are now still engaged in armed and rebellious activities.This political tussle is a long chapter in the history of Assam and has many bloody activities which had claimed many innocent lives in the past. Still, in spite of all these horrible activities of loss of life and bloodshed peace and calmness of this unparallely beautiful and vast forest range have remained disturbed. There are three ranges of the Manas National Park in the Manas Tiger Reserve. Its total area is about 500 sq. km. Panbari in the west, Bhuinapara in the east and Bansbari is in between them. In the north spans the vast hilly area comprising the “Royal Manas” of Bhutan. Safari inside the Panbari range is practically impossible. The NDFB[S] terrorists are still very much active inside it. But Bansbari and Bhuinapara range are open for tourist.
The river Beki, the lifeline of the Manas NTR, is flowing along the western fringe of the Bansbari Range. The river Beki and the river Hakua are two tributaries of the main Manas river. The river Mans has separated the Bansbari Range from the “Royal Manas Rnage” of Bhutan. But the River Beki has gradually been shifting towards the Bansbari Range due to various man-made and natural causes. The banks of the National Park are eroding every year and in the past 15 years the river has shifted about four kilometers in towards the east, towards Bansbari Range. This yearly shifting of the river is still continuing in full swing. And this year the situation is alarming. A part of the road that ran parallel to the river and leads to Latajhar has been fully engulfed by the river in the very beginning of the monsoon.

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:11 PM
A herd of wild buffaloes are seen here on their journey towards some areas of upper level in the forest. They are preparing themselves for the hardships of the ensuing long and difficult monsoon season.

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:13 PM
When I visited Manas the second time the monsoon was on the verge of retiring for that year. But the meteorological department did forecast some heavy spell of rain during the mid October. We lost no time to arrive at Manas. The sky was full of thick sheets of black clouds. We came to know of heavy rains downpouring in the Bhutan Hills. We went near the bank of the river and discovered the road which I mentioned earlier has been completely washed away. The Beki has been continuously engulfing its banks and is now flowing near the foot if the forest check post at Panchmile. There on a number of lump of clays have sprouted some toadstools.

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:14 PM
It was known from the local people that the inherent nature of Manas is gradually deteriorating due to the newly constructed dam intended for the two hydroelectric projects one on Kurichu river , [HEP (60MW)] and the other on Mangdechu river [HEP (270MW)]. These two rivers have joined themselves with the Manas-Beki river system in their downstream.

As a result, a large part of the Manas gets flooded whenever excess water is released from these two dams. This year the flood situation here is worse than that of the previous five years. The anxious faces of the local people of the villages of this fringe areas confirms and authenticate the grim flood situation here.

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:17 PM
Flood water starts entering their villages. The silt brought along with the flood water spoils the cultivated land and causes a great financial damage to the cultivators. In the natural course, the possibility of trafficking of forest wood increases to a great extent due to the financial crunch of the local people.

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:19 PM
The earnings of the local people wane at the end of the long monsoon period spanning five months. Collection of firewood by the local people stops completely. The economy relating to the local tourist lodges becomes sluggish. People start a parallel source of income by catching fish in the Beki river along with usual work in the tea garden. Besides these I have seen them being engaged in some other professions such as rearing cattles, livestock etc. People swim into the river and collect trunks of trees that come downward from the hills along with the river water. They sometimes even risk their lives to do this. These are used as firewood and are also sold in the local market as per demand.

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:21 PM
On the other side, in the Manas mainland the situation becomes grave. The water of the Beki river starts flowing in full swing through the natural streams and inundates the whole region. I came across a concrete bridge on my way to Bhutan where I see flood water overflowing it with a huge speed. Two armed guards remained posted there with sombre faces. After a few hours at that night somebody brought a message that both the precariously maintained approach roads have been washed out by the ferocious flood water.

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:23 PM
There is a couple of bungalows known as the Mathanguri FRH on the lap of the hill at the Bhutan border. It is known as Mathanguri FRH. I think this FRH is one of the best FRHs among all other best known FRHs in India in therms of their scenic beauties. While I was on my way to Mathanguri I noticed that the streams of different sizes have shifted their channels.. In some places the flow of water in the original streams have dwindled considerably. Last year the flow in this channel was so forceful and tremendous that the concrete bridge over it got completely washed away. A new bridge had to be constructed in that same place. But this year the flow in this channel is almost absent even after very heavy spells of rains as the channel has shifted its route.

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:25 PM
And, in this small channel the flow of water is totally absent, though at the onset of the monsoon season there was flow of water in it. It is very much natural for these small rivulets of the forest to shift their channels during monsoon as the beds of the channels wither. the ecosystems of the surrounding areas change. This way the flood has been inducing changes in the nature of Manas unawarely. The local administration regularly hold Bhutan responsible for the flood. But the Bhutanese administration claims that there is no reservoir in the Kurichu ower Project and they also claim that all the vital informations from their part are shared with India as per requirement. In this connection it may be mentioned that the Kurichu Dam was designed, constructed and monitored jointly with Indian experts and financial support.

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:26 PM
As I was coming out of the park I noticed water is flowing through through small streams in the deep forest. It was dificult to figer out whether the gypsy was moving along the road or not.

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:28 PM
We had to wait for two days for the harsh weather to go away. I came to know that the water level inside the park had started receding. I managed to get a written permission to enter the park. All the roads towards the park were closed. We could proceed maximum 6 to 7 KM with some difficulty along the main road towards Bhutan upto the bridge which recently got washed away.

I experienced the Manas in a completely new perspective as the slant afternoon sun-rays beamed over the lines of trees. A thick layer of sand of about 10 inches and a layer of silt over it have accumulated in the areas of deep forest from where the flood water have subsided.

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:33 PM
There is a large amount of controversy about the floods and the ensuing siltation in the forest. To some this is beneficial for the ecosystem of the forest but some others opine differently.

The positive side –
1.The fishes in the water bodies of the park easily proliferate. This is due to the fact that they are encouraged to lay eggs in the flowing flood water.
2.As the new and fresh flood water enters this stagnant hyacinths are forced to move away from the water bodies. As a result the migratory birds such as duck, herons and pelicans find a favourable condition foraging in the upcoming winter season.
3.As a result of the floods the natural qualitative property of the water of the waterbodies is maintained naturally.
4.The siltation due to flood overlays the old and rotten vegetation of the forest floor which helps for the new vegetation to grow. A new ecosystem comes up.

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:38 PM
Negative sides –
1.A lot of wild animals loss their lives being immersed in flood water. Incidence of poaching of wild animals increases rapidly as the poacher take advantage of the helplessness of these poor creatures as they try to flee away from the flood water.
2.When the park gets submerged the grazing area of the wild animals gets reduced; food for them become scarce.
3.When the river channels are shifted the ecosystem surrounding the old riverbed changes. The depths of the waterbodies decrease. They become fragmented in a number of smaller parts. The banks of the large rivers fall down and causes land erosion.
4.The anti-poacing infrastructure jeopardises when the roads and bridge inside the park get damaged.

Different researches have proved that swamp grassland in the Manas has increased slowly and gradually post 2004 flood. On the other side the part of rivet Manas near Mathanguri have withered and shifted away to some distances as the river Beki has moved towards the park. The siltation due to water logging is increasing every year for different reasons in the downstream of the river Beki. The sandy soil area in the park is increasing. The rivers are carrying chunks of stones from the hills and all these stones are getting deposited in the Bhabar Savanna area in the hills of the northern side of the park. And in the southern side where the depth of the channels are low and where the velocity of flood water is less fine alluvium deposition occurs naturally. There is still a need of extensive research regarding this landmass dynamics of the park.

Swamp grassland of Manas

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:40 PM
The moment we left Banshbari range and was heading towards Bhuinapara in the east I came across a lonely Stonechat brooding over a bunch of catkins. The winter guest of the Manas have arrived.

Samrat Sarkar
15-11-2016, 10:44 PM
I sighted a number of herd of elephants in the long swamp grassland climbing upwards in the hills of the eastern side. I also sighted two Rhinos close to the fringe areas. Our forest guard companion immediately sent a SOS to the Beat office; new lives are springing up once again all over Manas, and a new preparation is underway for the upcoming winter seasons. As innumerable incidents of turmoil and adversities could not cow down it during the past 111 years, this year as well it has emerged victorious; It is Manas.

And it is Manas, where I lost my heart.

Written in bengali by Samrat Sarkar
Translated into English by Biswajit Debnath.
Equipment used – Canon EOS 7D + Canon 500mm f4 IS II L USM + Monopod and Olympus OMD EM-1 + Zuiko 12-40mm f 2.8 PRO.

References –
1. Ecological Assessment of Hispid hare in Manas National Park, India FINAL REPORT SUBMITTED TO Conservation Leadership Programme BY NABA K NATH (Team Leader) KAMAL MACHARY & PARTHA PRATIM SARKAR.
2. Potential impact of large river dam in Eastern Himalaya on World heritage sites of Assam: Expression of concern. Paartha J Das and Bibhab K Talukdar, Aranyak (Guwahati).
3. Land-use and Land-cover change and future implication analysis in Manas National Park, India using multi-temporal satellite data by Prasenjit k Sharma, Bibhuti K Lakhar, Sonali Ghose, Abhijit Rava, Jyoti P Das, Naba K Nath, Santanu Dey and Namita Brahma.
4. Conservation and Monitoring of Tiger Population in Manas National Park through field techniques and capacity building of local stakeholders. PROJECT CO-ORDINATOR MS. PURNIMA DEVI. ORGANIZATION AARANYAK.
5. The Positive and Negative Impacts of flood on Biodiversity by Deeptirekha Jain.
6. Various newspapers of Assam and Bhutan.

Sun-set at Bhuianpara range, eastern part of Manas

Samrat Sarkar
16-11-2016, 10:16 PM
Dear respected viewers, members and admin

Lots of people are asking about the photographer of the images used here and it is here by mentioned that all the images was photographed by me and Image 3 and Image 15 was photographed by Canon EOS 7D + Canon 500mm f4 IS II USM + Monopod and rest of the images photographed by Olymus OMD EM-1 + Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 PRO. All the EXIF data is attached with images.

Image 13 is showing the rotten vegetation of forest floor after flood.
Time of visit was end of June and latter mid October 2016.
Special thanks to - Sanjib Pathak, Sujoy Biswas, Shyam Basumatari, Dilip Bodo, Umesh Das, Shyamal Dutta and Forest Department of Assam.

Samrat Sarkar

Mrudul Godbole
21-11-2016, 02:16 PM
You are lucky you are able to visit this amazing Forest so many times and also in different seasons and witness the changes in the ecosystem.

It is really sad, that dams are built without thinking of the effect it will have on the forest and people residing close to it. It is really tough for these poor people to survive there in such harsh conditions, melted out to them just to provide more electricity in the cities.

How many days in total did you stay there? Thanks to you and your team for sharing this detailed write-up about Manas and the amazing photographs with it. It surely helps to understand the real picture of the flood situation there.

Subhash Shrivastava
22-11-2016, 04:58 PM
Wow, how I wish I could have been there. Excellently captured in images, vividly described. Thanks.

Saktipada Panigrahi
03-12-2016, 05:13 PM
Amazing documentation. Part 3 and Part 12 depicting 'survival' of the wild life and 'fertility' associated with flood are liked by me. Thanks for sharing. SaktiWild

Samrat Sarkar
05-12-2016, 12:13 PM
Thanks a lot Mrudul ji, Subhash ji and Shakti da for your appreciations.
@ Mrudul ji
I stayed there 9 days in total. In June I stayed 3 days and in October I stayed 6 days.
Thanking you again.


Debasis Bose
05-03-2017, 09:47 PM
Amazing observation and images. The gripping narration from the heart says the story of glory of Manas reserves survival from the elements of the planet. Thank you Samrat for sharing the intimate moments from Manas