Call of the wild

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for years the rainforests of Assam have suffered the ignominy of isolation and neglect. Attempts are now underway to conserve this national heritage with active public participation. As a measure of this enterprise, a three-day festival rejoicing the cultural and spiritual links between these rainforests and the local communities was held recently in the Joypur town of Dibrugarh district. The event, the first of its kind in the country, celebrated folklore, music and arts that have emerged from the rich rainforests tracts of the state. More importantly, it highlighted the endeavours of the people of Assam in putting this rich green belt on the global map of biodiversity conservation. Spearheading this movement was Nature's Beckon, an environmental group that had successfully mounted a similar campaign earlier. (The organisation was responsible for starting a grassroot movement in 1980s for protection of Chakrashila reserve forests in west Assam.) "Our movement will continue to keep up the pressure on the government, to educate people, to disseminate information about the importance of rainforests,'remarked Nature's Beckon president Soumyadeep Dutta.

The festival brought together environmentalists, politicians, administrators, academics, journalists and the local people to highlight the forests' fragile status. The large attendance was unparalled and evoked several responses. "I have never seen such a huge turnout in any rainforest movement,' commented Rosa Maria Ruiz, an eminent rainforest activist who is responsible for creating the two-million-hectare Madidi National Park in Bolivia. The discussions, street plays, exhibitions, cultural functions and the various adventure activities, that marked the unique event, were part the initiative to build a local global citizen base for action in conserving these rainforests. Support for this venture also came from Ashoka Innovators for Public