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Threat to forest cover

Tura, Feb. 14: The rampant felling of trees in many places in East and South Garo Hills for jhum cultivation and firewood is posing a threat to the environment.

Environment activist James Sangma said, “The impact of deforestation can already be seen in Garo hills with the diminishing water table and the drying of perennial streams.”

The impact of deforestation can be at Rongsak, Rangmalgre, Nokrek and Dadenggre. The clearing of forest cover for jhum cultivation is one of the major causes of deforestation. Most remote villages in Garo hills depend on shifting cultivation (jhumming) for their livelihood. Though efforts have been initiated by government agencies to reduce jhumming, they have not borne fruit.

“People are not convinced with the alternative livelihood options given by the government. They want to continue with their age-old practices,” said Samgar Sangma, an activist associated with the Centre for Environment Protection and Rural Development.

Sangma feels a concerted approach is required to educate and create awareness among the rural masses. In Garo hills, people own the land. It becomes difficult to impose the rule of law without community participation, he added.

He said in many areas forest cover is cleared for firewood.

Tangseng Momin, also associated with the centre, said, “There has been an alarming rise in deforestation in many areas. The entire area from Selbalgre along the Tura-Williamnagar road in West Garo Hills is completely depleted.”

East Garo Hills deputy commissioner Vijay Mantri said, “We are working out plans to ensure the forests are protected. An initiative has been launched under the Integrated Basin Development and Livelihoods Promotion Programme to ensure the green cover is maintained.”

Pranab Rabha, an agricultural extension (application of scientific research to agricultural practices) professional, said, “Rubber plantation is posing a threat in North Garo Hills, degrading the soil quality and depleting the water table. It is sad that people are using the agrarian soil for rubber plantation.”

Rabha said rampant deforestation has led to the shrinking of rivers like the Ganol and the Simsang, which are the main source of water for towns like Tura, Williamnagar and Baghmara. These towns are facing acute water shortage on a regular basis, he added.