GAJOLDOBA……THE UNEXPLORED PEARL OF NORTH BENGAL
2020-11-18| Amlan Roy chowdhury
The very word “Gajoldoba” might make one feel awkward. The place though is a gem of North Bengal. We were not aware of this place till we went to Latpanchar, a small quaint hamlet, and home to one of the rarest bird in the world about which I shall blog separately. The word “doba” in Bengali means a wet marshy place. Watery hole; Small and often unused water bodies.
This wetland did not exist prior to early 1970s but then during the year 1975 -1976 the Teesta barrage was constructed which was the largest irrigation project not only in West Bengal but also in the entire eastern region. It created 9.22 lakh hectres of irrigation potential in six northern districts of West Bengal and 67.50 MW of hydropower from canal falls.
Gajoldoba wetland was an offshoot of this mega project and a perfect example of the symbiosis of technological mega projects and nature conservation.
Gajoldoba is a small village on the western side of Teesta River close to the Baikunthapur forest. The village is in the Oodlabari area of Jalpaiguri district. Gajoldoba became famous for the dam on River Teesta that was created for irrigation of agricultural land of North Bengal. The dam has created a large water body upstream which has become home to migratory birds during the winter. The place also provides an awe-inspiring backdrop of the mighty kangchenjunga peaks of the Himalayas and is also surrounded by the Baikunthapur forest.
The natural beauty of the place with its view of the forest, river, and mountain has now started attracting tourists from nearby localities and from throughout the country and abroad also. The barrage over Teesta river at Gajoldoba is also a major route of road connection between Dooars and Terai area of North Bengal.
We visited Gajoldoba from Latpanchar as I mentioned earlier. Its just a two and half hour drive from there downhill. Latpanchar being located at around 5000 feet altitude is located in the kurseong range of the Himalayas. This was one of the most picturesque journey that we undertook. The River Teesta was by our side till we crossed the coronation bridge and then it was endless Tea Gardens on either side. We left at around five thirty in the morning and reached Gajoldoba by around eight in the morning. Arriving at Gajoldoba one has to drive over the Teesta Barrage which is approximately a kilometer long and just leaving the barrage, on the right is the Gajoldoba wetlands and on the left are many food stalls. One can get a quick breakfast there and then go over to the wetlands on the opposite side.
The place can be reached from Siliguri (30 km, 1 hour) or Jalpaiguri town (40 km, 1.5 hours). Oodlabari is 20 km (45 minutes) and Gorumara National Park area is about 26 km.
We skipped the breakfast part and went to the wetland boat jetty. We hired a boat with chair type sitting arrangement as this would be comfortable for a four to five hour boat ride in pursuit of the various exotic water birds. One should choose an open boat, which is one without a shade roof, because a boat with a shade roof actually intimidates the birds. The earlier one starts the tour, the better it is for the prospective photographer. Birds do feed and their activities are maximum during the cool morning hours and by afternoon they normally rest in the shade or on top of the trees of the nearby forest.
The average depth of this huge wetland is just about four feet and the water is crystal clear so much so that one can actually see the floor of the wetland. The color of the water is a pale turquoise green.
We photographed the Open billed stork, Pochards, Rudy Shelducks, Common Sandpiper, Great Crested Grebe, Gray Headed Lapwing, Red Wattled Lapwing, River Lapwing
We actually meandered through the various channels photographing the various birds and then one of the channel opened into the river Teesta. One feels like coming to an ocean as the Teesta at gajoldoba is about a kilometer long. Oh what a splendid sight.
To all my readers, if you have the time and the inclination and the love to explore the unexplored Gajoldoba is the place that should be in your iteniery. Visit to Gajoldoba wetland was not just a photography expedition but was also a very spiritual experience where one is forced to appreciate the creator’s infinite unique creations.