Image: Northeast Now

The camera panned in on horse shoe shaped Safrai river flowing lazily under skies which seemed bluer, amidst foliage which seemed greener and flora more exotic than hitherto seen in Assam’s variegated landscape.

This wilderness was a patch of the isolated Chala reserve forest in Charaideo district of Assam which came alive in the documentary being screened at the Chalapather Buddhist monastery in Chalapather Shyam Gaon recently.

Released by Rina Paul, a member of Indian Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and various other nature organizations, the documentary entitled, Chala Village Sanctuary, was made by Assam Centre for Ornithological Research headquartered at Jorhat.

The documentary is directed by Suryya Kumar Chetia, one of the founders of the Centre and wildlife enthusiast.

The 12 minute documentary not only focuses on the wildernessbut also on the efforts  of the Tai Khamyang community which has recently taken upon itself the onus of protecting the forest land from which they and their ancestors have been drawing sustenance for centuries.

The 120 families of Chalapathar Shyam Gaon who inhabit the fringes of the 683 odd hectare of the Chala Reserve Forest in a community conservation initiative declared the reserve forest as the Chala Village Sanctuary three years ago, a first in Assam where a reserve forest is being protected by the people who live in the vicinity.

In the documentary you will meet Pyoseng Chowlu, secretary of the Chala Village Sanctuary Conservation Society who tells you how and why it was necessary to protect this patch of land which contained so many indigenous herbs and plants including the Gnetum Gnemon, a protein packed nutritious shrub which was slowly becoming extinct.

You will also meet Amrit Shyam who has single handedly caged a couple of black panthers and leopards.

For the Tai Khamyangs, Buddhism, which they follow, also propagates the conservation of trees and animals.

For Suryya Kumar Chetia, making the documentary was a labour of love.

“I am happy to be associated with this community which has aspired to conserve this natural habitat for the forthcoming generations,” he said.

“The forest teems with green vipers, cobras, monitor lizards, black capped langurs, leopards and birds like the oriental pied hornbills, hoopoe, emerald doves, woodpeckers, parakeets and a wide variety of butterflues. I have managed to capture only a few,” he said.

Chetia, assistant professor in Assam Women’s University in Jorhat already has a number of documentaries to his credit.

The most noted ones being the conservation of oriental pied hornbills at Barbhuin Chetia Gaon in Dibrugarh district.

Among those who attended the screening were former joint director of veterinary department Dr Nripen Khound; principal of Pali Studies, Dhrubajyoti Shyam; Assam Agricultural University museum in charge Dipjyoti Saikia and Assam Women’s University assistant professor Angshuman Phukan.

Smita Bhattacharyya

Smita Bhattacharyya is Northeast Now Correspondent in Jorhat. She can be reached at: triptyaddy@gmail.com