A quick glance at Assam’s map reveals the unique landscape of Dibru-Saikhowa National Park (DSNP). Hemmed by rivers Brahmaputra, and Dibru and Lohit, this national park rises like an island. The constantly changing course of these rivers, deposits high amount of silt and forms small chaporis, or river islands, around the national park. The park’s main island is also dotted by perennial beels, or freshwater ponds. Together they become a part of the dynamic Brahmaputra floodplains.
Assam’s DSNP covers an area of 340 sq. kms in the Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts. In 1950, an impactful earthquake sank the naturally occurring tropical rainforests in the park, paving the way for the existing deciduous forests and swamps. Today, Dibru-Saikhowa has the largest salix swamp forest — a jungle of deciduous trees and shrubs that grow in moist soils — in Northeast India.
The park is surrounded by a buffer zone (425 sq. kms) that forms the Dibru-Saikhowa Biosphere Reserve (DSBP). The biosphere reserve accommodates several chaporis and beels that add to the ecological wealth of the landscape. Amarpur chapori, that lies to the north of the national park has grasslands, that are inundated during the monsoons. The grass here grows up to 3-4 metres tall. The Maguri-Motapung beel lies to the south of the park. This wetland is home to around 110 bird species, of which eight are listed as ‘Threatened’ in the IUCN Red List, and 84 species of fish, including the rare golden mahseer.
This mosaic of dry and wet grasslands, wetlands and swamp forests creates an ideal haven for numerous birds. Many, such as the endangered white-winged duck (Cairina scutulata), Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis), and swamp grass babbler (Laticilla cinerascens), are reported from here. “The entire area is very important for the conservation of grassland species,” says ornithologist Shashank Dalvi.