North Bengal is a term, for the parts of Bangladesh and West Bengal. The Bangladesh part denotes the Rajshahi Division. Generally it is the area lying west of Jamuna River and north of Padma River, and includes the Barind Tract. The West Bengal part denotes Cooch Behar, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda districts together. It also includes parts of Darjeeling Hills. Traditionally, the Hooghly River divides West Bengal into South and North Bengal, divided again into Terai and Dooars regions.
This region comprising the state of Sikkim and the adjoining parts of North Bengal - Darjeeling and Kalimpong, is a rugged strip of vertical mountain country. Wedged between Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, and the North Bengal Plains of India. This tiny region is just 90 km wide and 150 km deep. The grain of the country rises from near sea level to 8500 meters, in a short distance, The great Himalayan Range with its giant spurs – Singelila and Chola, virtually enclose this region in a titanic horseshoe. Starting from the plains of North Bengal tangled interlacing ridges rise range after range to the foot of the great wall of high peaks and passes opening into Tibet, Nepal and BhutanThe climate varies between the tropical heat of the valleys and the alpine cold of the snowy regions. With rainfall averaging 348 cm, it is the most humid region of the Himalayas. Dry season is from November to April. The altitudanal zones of vegetation range from tropical, sub tropical, temperate to Alpine – some places only 10 km in a direct line separates the palm growing valleys from perpetual snow. The varied terrain - from the pleasant humid foothill valleys below 1000 meters, to the arctic cold of the snow capped peaks up to 8000 meters, has created marked altitudinal zonation in the humidity, rainfall, climate and vegetation.One-horned rhinoceros
The Terai ("moist land") is a belt of marshy grasslands, savannas, and forests at the base of the Himalaya range in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, from the Yamuna River in the west to the Brahmaputra River in the east. Above the Terai belt lies the Bhabhar, a forested belt of rock, gravel, and soil eroded from the Himalayas, where the water table lies from 5 to 37 meters deep. The Terai zone lies below the Bhabhar, and is composed of alternate layers of clay and sand, with a high water table that creates many springs and wetlands. The Terai zone is inundated yearly by the monsoon-swollen rivers of the Himalaya. Below the Terai lies the great alluvial plain of the Yamuna, Ganges, Brahmaputra, and their tributaries.
The Dooars or Duars are flood plains at the foothills of the eastern Himalayas in North-East India around Bhutan. Duar means door in both Assamese and Bengali languages and forthe Bhutanese people can communicate with the people living in the plains. This region is divided by the Sankosh river into the eastern and the western Duars consisting of an area of 8,800 square kilometer (3,400 square-mile). This region was controlled by the Kingdom of Bhutan when the British annexed it in 1865 after Bhutan War. They are now part of the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal.Many wars have been fought over them. These plains are very fertile. There are innumerable streams and rivers flowing through these fertile plains from the mountains of Bhutan. In Assam the major rivers are Brahmaputra and Manas, and in northern West Bengal the major river is the Teesta besides many others like the Jaldhaka, Torsha, Sankosh, Dyna, Karatoya, Raidak, Kaljani among others.The forested areas of Northern West Bengal present a plethora of Wildlife.This mixed dry deciduous forest land dotted with grasslands, harbors the largest diversity of mega fauna in West Bengal. A large range of foothill forest in North Bengal is called Dooars. Once the whole area was under the reign of Koch Raj. Tea Gardens, alpine landscape, transparent river, National Parks and the Wildlife Sanctuary creates a paradise. Beautiful motorable roads cut through deep forests, rich with wildlife. Mauve hills stand at the end of velvet green plains. The forests echo with the melody of birds. In between, there are fabulous wildlife sanctuaries with, log cabin lodges and valleys carpeted with tea gardens. Dooars is the habitat of the rare Toto tribes.
The most convenient entry point to Dooars is through Siliguri by road. Regular bus connections between Siliguri and most important spots in the Dooars. Also broad gauge rail connection between New Jalpaiguri and Mal, Madarihat, Nilpara, Jainti, Mainaguri, Dhupguri and Falakata. Metre gauge rail connection between Siliguri and most spots.
Dooars Jungle in North Bengal are:- Buxa, Gorumara, Jaldapara, Neora Valley, Bindu, Jaldhaka, Jhalong, Malbazar, Samsing
The state has 4031 sq. Km. of forests, under protected area network which is 34% of the State's total forest area and 4.54% of the total geographical area. There are five National Parks, fifteen sanctuaries, two tiger reserves and one biosphere reserve. The PA network includes 1055 sq. km. of sanctuaries, 1693 sq. km. of National Parks, the balance are being represented by buffer areas of the two tiger reserves, viz. Sunderbans Tiger Reserve and Buxa Tiger Reserve.
Habitat loss has largely taken place due to human intervention and change in land use pattern. Large scale conversion of natural habitats for a variety of purposes have led to shifts in floristic pattern (like in case of weed flora) and also fragmentation and loss of natural corridors for animals, leading to man-animal conflict. After the armed conflict with China in 1962, for example, the Army has been permanently stationed in Binnaguri, which has led to loss of the elephant corridor. Similar is the case of tea gardens in North Bengal, which have also witnessed man-animal conflict after forests were clearfelled. Habitat loss has led to decline in several species, and fauna like otter, Bengal jackal, pangolin, mongoose, porcupine are among those which are not frequently sighted today. Much needs to be studied about the underlying inter-relationships between biodiversity and the anthropogenic element, to clearly establish how harm to flora and fauna as a result of human interference must be stemmed.
Neora Valley National Park
Buxa National Park
Singalila National Park
Jaldapara Wild Life Sanctuary
Death on the Tracks
There have been repeated incidents of elephant and bison deaths on railway tracks running through the forests of North Bengal. In the last seven years, 26 elephants have been killed in North Bengal. Nine elephants have been killed in the last two years alone. Most of the cases have been reported from a 100-km stretch between Alipurduar to Siliguri. The track was converted to broad gauge line in 2004 allowing an increase in train speed.
Poaching of wild animals including leopards and tigers continues with impunity. Three leopards and a tiger were killed recently. A poacher was recently arrested with 4 leopard skins, 10 kilos of tiger bones and 16 kg. of rhino skins. International Wildlife trade is involved in poaching operations.
Leopard & Rhino skins
Acknowledgements: Wikipedia, West Bengal Forest Department, Dept. Of Environment, Government of West Bengal, The Telegraph, Himalayaandnorthbengal.com