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Eco Tourism in a Biosphere Reserve : The Natmo Experience (with Special Reference to Kaziranga National Park)

Dr. Asit Kumar Sarkar
Research Officer and Head, Digital Mapping and GIS Division
National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation
Government of India



Abstract
National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation, a subordinate office of Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, is the exclusive government agency which prepares thematic maps on widely covered subjects or themes. Apart from preparation of National Atlas of India in eight volumes containing 300 odd plates, the Organization prepared different Atlases, viz. Forest Atlas of India, Agricultural Atlas of India, Land Resource Atlas of India, Socio Economic Atlas of India, etc. In these atlases countryís resource conditions have been depicted in detail.
So far as Forest Atlas of India is concerned, apart from some general maps associated with / related to forest resources, the countryís bio-sphere conditions have been depicted in detail in comparatively large scale format. Forests have been classified elaborately and also wild life as well as wet land situations have been depicted in graphical format.
At present there is a growing awareness regarding environment and ecology. Hence to visualise the environmental condition of the country, NATMO has already prepared maps on environmentally sensitive zones at a scale of 1 : 1 million.
However, the latest contribution of the Organisation regarding eco-tourism, is the preparation of detail maps on Bio-sphere reserves, viz., Namdapha Tiger Reserve and Kaziranga National Park, both situated in the north eastern part of India.

Introduction :
National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation, a subordinate office of Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, is the exclusive government agency which prepares thematic maps on widely covered subjects or themes. Apart from preparation of National Atlas of India in eight volumes containing 300 odd plates, the Organization prepared different Atlases, viz. Forest Atlas of India, Agricultural Atlas of India, Land Resource Atlas of India, Socio Economic Atlas of India, etc. In these atlases countryís resource conditions have been depicted in detail.

So far as Forest Atlas of India is concerned, apart from some general maps associated with / related to forest resources, the countryís bio-sphere conditions have been depicted in detail in comparatively large scale format. Forests have been classified elaborately and also wild life as well as wet land situations have been depicted in graphical format.

At present there is a growing awareness regarding environment and ecology. Hence to visualise the environmental condition of the country, NATMO has already prepared maps on environmentally sensitive zones at a scale of 1 : 1 million.

However, the latest contribution of the Organisation regarding eco-tourism, is the preparation of detail maps on Bio-sphere reserves, viz., Namdapha Tiger Reserve and Kaziranga National Park, both situated in the north eastern part of India.

Kaziranga National Park :
The name Kaziranga National Park bounded by the mighty Brahmaputra River on the north and verdant hills of Karbi Anglong on the south, conjures up visions of animals, birds, flowers and vast rolling expanses of wild grasses. Kaziranga is unique among Indian wildlife habitats where no visitor fails to see its important residents, rhino and wild buffalo. Besides, he will come across many other animals and avifauna as well. Kaziranga is world famous wild life sanctuary, where visitors come from different regions of India and also from various parts of the world. Hence in the present exercise an attempt has been made to help visitors to this National park by mapping the Park in different dimensions and scales with some added information like salient features of the sanctuary, does and doníts, ideal time to visit, available communication net work, etc.

The Historical Background of the Park:
As far as the history of Kaziranga is known, it was Lady Curzon, who became concerned first about the rhino of Kaziranga after hearing from her British tea planter friends and came to visit Assam in 1904-05. Kaziranga then was a sportsmanís and poacherís paradise with rapidly declining population of rhino.

Lady Curzon persuaded Lord Curzon, the then Governor General of India, from total annihilation. Thus, on 1st June, 1905, a preliminary notification was issued announcing the intension of the Government to declare 56,273.60 acres of land in Kaziranga as reserve forest. Finally on 3rd January, 1908, Kaziranga was declared as Reserved Forest and was officially prohibited for shooting.

In 1913, the area of reserve forest was expanded by another 13,506 acres and on 10th November, 1916, it was declared a Game Sanctuary. In 1938, the then Conservator of Forests, A.J.W. Milroy prohibited all poaching activities and opened Kaziranga to visitors. In 1950, the name Game Sanctuary was changed to Wildlife Sanctuary and on 11th February, 1974, it was designated as Kaziranga National Park and was listed in World Heritage Site by L.U.C.N.

The Present Status:
The Park is of rough oval shape, approximately 50 km (31 miles) long and 16 km (10 miles) wide at the broadest point, and of 430 sq. km (166 sq. miles) area. It lies on the south bank of the Brahmaputra River and its south side boundary follows for the most part of the Mara Diphlu River which is parallel to NH 37, the main arterial highway in Assam. Two other rivers, Diphlu and Bhengrai flow through it and a number of small streams originating in the Karbi Anglong hills drain into these rivers or the bills. The landscape of Kaziranga includes vast swamps interspersed with great expanses of tall, coarse grasses often collectively called Elephant Grass. (5 m or more in height), open forest, beels and reed beds. A feature of many of these beels is the excessive growth of the water-hyacinth, a plant exotic to the park but introduced into it for some unknown reason. South of the Highway are the Karbi Anglong hills rising to 1,220 m. (4,000 ft.) which have a special significance to the park, as the wildlife seek refuge on the hills when virtually the whole park is inundated by the flood waters of the Brahmaputra and the other rivers during the monsoon. Many wild lives are lost every year during this time.

The Cartographic Exercise:
To begin with the exercise, all available input information, may be traditional or ultra modern, have been taken into consideration. Thus Survey of India topographical maps belonging to different periods and also detail maps available with the local authority have been consulted for compilation of the base map. These information have been updated applying remote sensing techniques, so that the latest situation may be depicted faithfully. Information thus collected have been translated into graphical format, i.e. in terms of maps. The entire mapping technique has been done by applying digital mapping technique. Thus, the guide map has been scanned, then converted into appropriate format which is acceptable to the application software. Ultimately the final map has been prepared in NATMOís Digital Mapping and GIS Division using state of the art Digital Mapping Technology.

Maps have been prepared in different extents and scales. A map of India at a scale of 1:15 million has been prepared, particularly meant for foreign tourists, indicating location of major international air ports in India. The transport network within north-eastern States of India showing detail communication network including rail, road and air route to Kaziranga or its nearest part has been prepared at a scale of 1:6,000,000.

The Kaziranga National Park has been mapped in detail at a scale of 1:1,000,000 showing detail administrative boundaries, the National Park boundary and also boundaries showing all six phases of additional (added) areas to Kaziranga National Park. Rivers, streams, other water bodies like bills, communication network including road with NH No. and railway, tourist route, detail land use including forest, scrubs / grass land and even tourist zone, elephant riding zone, location of watch tower, forest camp, lodge, hotel, inspection bunglow, forest office, etc. have been depicted in detail.

Tourist Zone I and II have been mapped in further detail at a scale of 1 : 50,000 where even tourist zones have been marked to guide visitors.

Some complementary information like salient features of the Park including basic statistics, climatic conditions round the year, topographic condition and vegetative cover, wildlife scenario, available communication network and transport system, availability of accommodation, season to visit including visiting hours, tariff for visitors and also places of tourist interest and even does and doníts within the Park have exhaustively and elaborately been depicted as text matter. In addition to all these information, selected photographs related to physiographic conditions, flora, fauna, etc. have also been accommodated at appropriate space within the map.

Conclusion:
The entire project has been conducted in GIS environment. Hence it may be used for interactive query and analysis purposes. These digital maps may be updated with minimum effort. Moreover, there is enough scope to place the map in web site to guide world wide tourist to Kaziranga National Park.