GUWAHATI, July 21 - Launching a crackdown on illegal timber business in the State, the forest department has shut down and demolished over 111 saw mills in the past one-and-a-half months.
�Most of these were located in interior areas of the State. We have seized the machinery. In many cases, the people operating these mills were caught and in some cases, the operators are absconding,� Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya told The Assam Tribune.
Suklabaidya, however, evaded a question as to how so many illegal saw mills were operating. The maximum number of such mills � 39 � were dismantled in the North Kamrup division. �Some of the mills were located in far flung areas where there is no electricity, the machinery being run by generators. There could be more such mills... The crackdown will continue,� he said.
The minister said that to dismantle one such mill the forest staff needs to spend around Rs 50,000 by hiring people and machinery. The forest department is in the process of allocating adequate funds to the divisions for carrying out demolition so that funds cannot be a constraint for enforcement operations, he said. The money will be allocated from the SOPD (States Own Priority Development) funds.
Meanwhile, the forest department has adopted one village in each constituency where a minimum of 1,000 saplings have been planted. �There are one or two cases where there are problems of land and other issues. They are being sorted out. We will complete the initiative within this season,� he said. Over one lakh saplings were distributed among the people during the last one and half month.
When pointed out that not much has been done to ensure survival of the saplings planted across the State, the minister admitted that it was challenge and officers have been tasked to prepare a report after six months.