Numaligarh (Assam): With a view to providing a proper home to butterflies in the unique Butterfly Valley in Assam`s Golaghat district, especially the endangered varieties, the North East Institute of Science and Technology is trying to locate and nurture plants there on which they breed.
The valley is situated inside the Numaligarh Refinery township, spread over an area of 30 acres amidst a backdrop of verdant green and surrounded by hillocks.
It is adjacent to the misty Deopahar hills and the Kaliani river, and is not far away from the world-famous Kaziranga National Park either.
An ecological hotspot, the Northeast is home to a dozen of endangered butterfly species and also has a variety of plants on which the butterflies breed, a research scholar attached to the North East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST), Deepanjali Saikia, said.
"Our effort is to identify more and more host plants to enable the butterflies and moths to breed, so that the valley becomes a unique place for insects in the world," she said.
At least 75 species of butterflies belonging to the five broad butterfly families have been listed in the valley, which also hosts an approximately 60,000 plants endemic to the Northeast.
The refinery authorities along with entomologists of the NEIST are playing a pivotal role in maintaining the fragile ecological balance in the industrial area, said NRL official K Borgohain.
The Butterfly Valley was set up as a part of the NRL`s commitment to protect and conserve the environment and ecology in the vicinity of the refinery, NRL`s Corporate Communication Manager Madhuchanda Adhikari Choudhury said.
Butterflies were initially bred in captivity inside a huge caterpillar-like protective structure with a net cover.
This was, however, later removed following a directive from the Union Environment Ministry as this was against the norms set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature which prohibited keeping of butterflies in captivity, another NRL official D Barua pointed out.
The doing away with the net cover has, however, posed a serious problem with birds in the area swooping down into the valley and eating caterpillars which breed on the host plants.
The population of butterflies had significantly increased after a scientific study and management of the host plants were undertaken by the NEIST`s Medicinal and Economic Plants department scientists led by Mantu Bhuyan.
Butterflies are an important component of the environment as they play a significant role in pollination of plants, maintenance of the food chain and foodweb and overall sustenance of the ecosystem, Saikia pointed out.
A laboratory is also housed inside the premises where entomologists carry out their observation studies and other research work and a butterfly and moth pavilion has also been set up for displaying the various species of the insects spotted in the Valley.
A herbal medicinal garden `Smritibon` with more than 5000 plants has been established within the Butterfly Valley under the guidance of herbal medicinal expert Gunaram Khanikar.