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Group up in arms over illegal saw mills

Jorhat, Feb. 27: Draped in banana leaves, bark of trees and creepers, members of Friends of Village today staged a unique protest in front of the Sivasagar deputy commissioner’s office.

The protest has been against growth of illegal saw mills across the state, which has depleted the green cover leading to increase in man-animal conflict. The members of Friends of Village — a voluntary organisation involved in socio-economic development of rural areas and environmental awareness — shouted slogans for over an hour in front of the DC’s office.

Secretary of the Friends of Village Srimanta Ranjan Bora today told this correspondent that about 20 members dressed in “nature’s way” with placards staged the protest to highlight the plight of largescale deforestation caused because of rampant felling of trees.

He said a huge crowd gathered at the spot and joined them in their protest against degradation of environment leading to disturbance in the ecosystem. The protesters later submitted a memorandum to the government through deputy commissioner J. Lahkar and demanded that he initiates immediate action to close down all illegal sawmills to curb felling of tress.

Bora said because of negligence shown by the government and lack of adequate protest by the civil society over rapid loss of green cover, the man-animal conflict was increasing in recent times leading to loss of wildlife and also humans.

“We want to call the attention of the government to the issue and spread awareness in society about conservation of nature,” the secretary said.

He said in recent times, illegal saw mills have been rapidly set up in the remote rural areas, especially in inter-state border areas and saporis (sandbars) to meet the demand for processing timber because of rise in felling of trees. Bora said the organisation plans to hold such kinds of protests in other districts in the future to highlight the issue.

He said the focus by government or by NGOs, was always given to national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests, but there are countless forests in villages, foothills and riverine areas that serve as habitats for a large number of wildlife species. Bora said because of the decreasing greenery, the wild animals were forced to come near human settlements, which resulted in man-animal conflict.

He said from a survey conducted by the organisation last year across the state by its volunteers it has been found there are about 900 small and big illegal saw mills with about 200 coming up in the last two years.

On September 30 last year, the members of the organisation in a similar manner staged a protest at the Sunday weekly market, Kerai Ali Bazar, near Khoragarh Ghorachora village under Amguri police station in Sivasagar district. The protest was against the alleged killing of two leopard cubs on the previous day by a group of villagers.

Though Khoragarh Ghorachora villagers claimed that dogs had killed the two leopard cubs, forest department sources alleged that the villagers themselves had killed the cubs to avenge the killing of a cow by the mother of the cubs the previous day. The cubs had taken shelter in a bamboo clump in the village with their mother.


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