| Timber being carried in carts in Goalpara on Wednesday. Picture by UB Photos |
Goalpara, May 8: The non-deployment of Assam Forest Protection Force in Goalpara district seems to have come as a boon to timber smugglers.
Every month forest department personnel seize a huge amount of timber from smugglers and fine them but have failed to stop the activities.
That timber smuggling is on the rise is evident, as villagers of Sogunbari, located near Matia reserve forest, seize illegal timber at regular intervals.
They then hand it over to the forest department.
Smugglers cut timber from the reserve forest that comes under Ranguli range and carry it on a tractor through the village, which is located 20km from Goalpara town and falls Matia police station.
“We are trying our best to protect the forest land. Every month we seize 10-12 trucks laden with illegal timber. We don’t have Assam Forest Protection Force in the district,” said district forest officer (DFO) Moklesh Ali.
He said they have appealed to their higher-ups several times, seeking deployment of forest protection force personnel and sufficient forest guards and foresters.
“With one or two forest guards and foresters assigned to a large area, things get very tight for us. There are a lot of vacant posts for which we have to take the help of Assam police. We are planning to evict an area in Damra on Thursday but we are not getting police assistance. What shall we do in this matter?” Ali pleaded helplessness.
However, a villager has a different take on the situation. “The timber smugglers always cut the trees at night but the forest department has not taken any initiative till now. At night no forest protection force can be seen in the forest area. The local people can’t prevent them as they carry sharp weapons,” he alleged.
An environmentalist, Dul Das, alleged, “We can seen that the district’s forest land is decreasing by the day because of encroachment and destruction of the forest by smugglers. The forest department appears indifferent to the issue. A few days ago, more than 1,200 rubber plants were cut down by unidentified persons but no one has been arrested till now. If this trend continues, the district will lose its green cover. Not only plants, but wildlife too has no protection in the district.”