I had gone on a roadtrip with Condé Nast Traveler and Land Rover to raise awareness about the stunning biodiversity of North East India. We used the very capable Discovery 5 and Discovery Sport SUVs to travel across Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. I am a Toyota 4×4 guy, but I was impressed with the Land Rover vehicles.
Starting from Dibrugarh, we went to Namdhapa via Miao. On the way, we crossed the starting point for the historic Stilwell (Ledo) Road. General Stilwell was an interesting character, from what I read in Field Marshal Slim’s Defeat into Victory. OT: Slim’s masterpiece about the Burma campaign is perhaps the best military memoir I have come across. Highly recommended for all military history buffs.
We spent a few days in Namdhapa, the third largest national park in India, with the northernmost lowland evergreen rainforests in the world. Because of its unique elevation range (1000 to 14,800 feet), Namdhapa has amazing biodiversity, and is the only park in India to host 4 big cat species – the Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, snow leopard and clouded leopard.
From Namdhapa, we went to Roing, a picturesque town in the Lower Dibang Valley district of Arunachal, and Pasighat, Arunachal’s oldest town. Then we crossed over to Assam, visiting Majuli, the world’s biggest river island on Brahmaputra, and Molai forest, named after the ‘Forest Man of India’, Jadhav Payeng. Over many decades, Payeng planted and tended trees on a barren Brahmaputra sandbar, turning it into a forest reserve which is today home to rhinos, elephants and tigers.
From Majuli, we moved to Nameri National Park. Walking through Nameri, accompanied by an armed forest guard, was an interesting experience. Kaziranga National Park was green and misty.
I have plans to visit the land of dawn-lit mountains again. Arunachal is unique. Beautiful, pristine, remote, and a mega diversity hot spot. It might not stay this way for too long unless a holistic approach is taken to balance development and conservation, and address some of the simmering issues. Forest cover is decreasing even as new species keep getting discovered from this amazing forests. Lack of jobs and demographic changes have created a lot of resentment. Corruption is endemic, and only a fraction of allocated funds are properly utilized. It takes a 30 lakh bribe to get an entry level government engineering job for a qualified candidate. Infrastructure is still primitive, which in turn inhibits tourism, which could generate much needed employment. Aspirations are increasing, but there are no easy ways to earn. No wonder people resort to timber smuggling, poaching, clearing of forest to grow cash crops like cardamom, or even joining insurgency groups in other states. Anyway, enough of ranting, that’s a topic for a separate (currently WIP) post or article. This one is supposed to be more of a brief photologue.
Rhinoscape. Misty morning.