Kokrajhar, July 8: Nearly 40,000 hectares of forestland in the BTAD are under encroachment.
According to the data available with the forest department in the BTC, a total 39,750.86 hectares are under encroachment.
About 2,385.14 hectares under Kachugaon forest division, 4,262.7 hectares in Dhansiri division, 8,894.21 hectares in Chirang division, 3,332.8 hectares in Porbotjhora division and 6,337.6 hectares in Baksa forest division are under encroachment.
The Haltugaon division of Kokrajhar district has the highest record of encroachment of forestland with 14,538.41 hectares of land being encroached upon.
Conservationists have expressed deep concern over the deteriorating scenario of forest wealth, unabated felling of trees and settlement of human habitation inside reserve forests and sanctuaries.
The question was even raised by BTC member Pradip Daimary in the councilís summer session recently.
Daimary drew the attention of the House on the issue, saying that massive encroachment and settlement was taking place in reserve forest under the BTC.
BTC deputy chief Kampa Borgoyary, who is in-charge of the forest and tourism department in the council, admitted that encroachment of land in reserve forest areas is going on.
Borgoyary said the BTC forest department has organised regular programmes for eviction drive against the encroachers in the reserve forest areas, but because of continuous re-encroachment, the areas could not be fully cleared.
The BTC authority had earlier announced tough action with the aim to revive the deteriorating forest wealth in the BTC region, especially the Ripu-Chirang elephant reserve in Kokrajhar district, which is the only evergreen forest left in the BTAD.
It even called an all-party meeting involving various political and non-political organisations, gaon buras, NGOs and locals to discuss issues related to protection of forests, but it had yielded no results.
The BTC has more than 3,500 square km of forest cover. Most of the reserve forests are situated in strategic locations, forming catchment area and important wildlife habitat. However, the problem of encroachment is causing huge ecological damages, environment experts said.
The affected wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests include Ripu-Chirang elephant reserve, which is part of Greater Manas, Chakrashila wildlife sanctuary, Barnadi wildlife sanctuary, Nonai Serfang and Parbhajhora reserve forests, among others.
Conscious citizens and wildlife lovers have urged both the BTC administration and Dispur to take strong measures to check the felling of trees so that the forest wealth can be preserved.
They said the BTC especially should take stern actions against timber smugglers and encroachers.