Jorhat, April 9: The Upper Assam Sanchi Farmers and Traders Association has warned the state forest department against interfering in the policy being formulated by the Union ministry of environment and forests for sustainable utilisation of agarwood so that there is no indiscriminate felling of endangered trees.
Referring to a report which appeared in The Telegraph on March 13 this year, Saidul Hussain, secretary of the association, in a press communiqué, said the statement made by an unnamed official regarding the agarwood species found in Assam being Aquilaria agallocha Roxb and that the one mentioned in the draft policy being Aquilaria malaccensis “which was reportedly not found in the state,” was misleading.
“Aquilaria malaccensis is found not only in Assam but all over the northeastern states of the country; so, changing the name of the species does not arise and it seems that the forest department official is trying to put a spanner in the works,” Hussain said.
A scientist of the Rain Forest Research Institute here said both the names stand for the same plant and are synonymous.
The communiqué said the policy being formulated would aid employability as many youths who are now engaged in tea growing and manufacturing could now take to growing agarwood in plantations and then distilling the costly oil which is of high value in the perfume industry.
“After the draft policy was formulated and restrictions were eased, the association has now decided to plant 1 lakh agarwood trees in a contiguous land area in the three districts of Golaghat, Jorhat and Sivasagar,” Hussain said.
“Since 1995, Aquilaria malaccensis has been listed as a potentially-threatened species by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, but if the ministry was formulating a policy for sustainable utilisation of agarwood, then this was indeed a welcome move for unemployed youths here who have land to spare for growing agarwood plantations,” Hussain said.
The communiqué said in 2006, the association had sought that the state forest department formulate a policy through a memorandum submitted to chief minister Tarun Gogoi but nothing had been done.
“We once again appeal to the department to ease the restrictions on felling of agarwood trees in homesteads which is a very long drawn-out process at present and open to corruption,” he said.
In July 2007, a meeting held here between agar farmers of the district and officials of the Assam forest department here had proposed to set up an International Agar Wood Auction Centre preferably in Jorhat and launch Mission Agarwood to bring about an economic revolution in the state by tapping the multicrore-rupee potential of agarwood oil.
It was further proposed that an auction centre would have adequate infrastructure in terms of electronic communication facilities but nothing seems to have come of these.