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Inquiry into sal tree felling

Borjhar, May 7: The Kamrup West forest division has initiated a probe into felling of sal trees in the Dighartari-Majartari area of Borduar reserve forest near Chandubi lake, about 60km from Guwahati.

Suspected timber smugglers have recently felled over 70 sal trees in the reserve forest which is under the jurisdiction of the Loharghat forest range.

The divisional forest officer of the Kamrup West forest division, B.C. Das, who had visited the site recently, said: “I have asked an assistant conservator of forest to conduct an inquiry into the incident. If any forest personnel is found guilty in this connection, strict action will be taken against him,” Das told this correspondent.

A group of senior forest officials of the forest division, including chief conservator of forests, Y. Suryanarayan, visited the site and found stumps of the sal trees.

Loharghat forest, spread over 11,062 hectares, comprises three reserve forests — Borduar, Mataikhar and Mayong Hills.

Residents also suspect a nexus between smugglers and forest officials that gives the former easy access to the trees inside Loharghat forest range.

In March last year, residents seized a timber-laden vehicle at Jimputa in Loharghat. A month later, members of the Borduar Bholagaon unit of the All Rabha Students’ Union caught three timber smugglers in the act and seized huge quantities of timber at Upper Muduki in Mayong Hills, 3km from Chandubi lake.

The Supreme Court has imposed a ban on timber felling in the northeastern region in a ruling in December 1996.

Despite the apex court ban, the rate of deforestation is alarming in Kamrup.

According to CAG report of 2009, 423.469 cubic metres of timbers were illegally felled in Kamrup in two years — 2006-2007 and 2007-2008. Of the felled timbers, a recovery measuring 249.795 cubic metres was reportedly made by the forest department.

According to Revised Working Plan for Kamrup Sal Forest, Assam, 1938-39, Kamrup sal forest is categorised into Kamrup alluvial sal, Khasi Hills sal, evergreen sal and mixed deciduous savannah. These four kinds of sal are predominantly found in the forest landscape under Kamrup West and East forests.