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Call for rhododendron preservation

The state government needs to take up the responsibility of preventing environmental degradation, or else rampant commercial ventures will lead to bleak days in the Darjeeling hills.

Swaati Chaudhury | Darjeeling |

The rhododendron forest of Singalila National Park in the Darjeeling hills is being depleted at an alarming level, courtesy the lackadaisical approach of the West Bengal Forest Department and Singalila National Park management.

The Darjeeling-based Federation of Society for Environmental Protection, better known as Fosep, had undertaken a survey called “Rhododendron Status in Singalila National Park” in April 2019.

Bharat Prakash Rai, secretary, Fosep, said, “The number of rhododendrons (a certain type of plant, which helps bind the soil together) in Singalila National Park is dwindling, owing to rampant felling of trees by hoteliers and people residing on the Indo-Nepal border for the purpose of making firewood. Nearly 60 per cent of rhododendron cover has been lost in the national park.”

He also said that his organisation has been visiting the national park since 2000 to assess the situation.

“The state forest department and the national park authorities have not made any attempts to do away with the menace; nor have they joined hands with our organisation for initiating an afforestation drive. Cattle-grazing is quite rampant in the national park and the forest nursery lies neglected, yet the state forest department does nothing. With the depletion of rhododendron forest in the national park gaining ground, there is frequent soil erosion, leading to loss of green habitats and landslides.”

While discussing measures to overcome these problems, Rai said, “Close monitoring of the Indo-Nepal border is the need of the hour. A little bit of hand-holding is essential to save the rhododendron cover of the national park. If this is not done, the day is not far when the park will face bleak days.” He also said that in addition to rhododendron depletion, trees like silver fir were being axed to drive real-estate forward.

The environment affects everybody as all of us reside in it and are a part of it. Hence, proper care of the national park needs to be taken.