TURA, Dec 3 - In a major breakthrough in the fight against illegal saw mills operating in the Garo Hills, a joint team comprising Forest personnel, administration officials and police under the aegis of District Level Special Task Force Committee (DLSTFC) shut down at least six illegally operating saw mills between Bhaitbari and Chibinang areas in West Garo Hills district today.
The Chibinang area has become the hub of the illegal timber trade in Garo Hills with sources putting the number of illegally operating saw mills at close to 40, all close to the border with Assam. Illegal trucks have been known to operate in the region with some even passing through the area in broad daylight despite the presence of a GHADC Forest check gate.
The raid on the mills started at about 9 am and ended at about 2 pm with all materials found in the illegally operating mills being seized by the task force.
�We raided six illegally operating saw mills in the area which included Haribhanga, Bholarbhita, Katmil and Ghumaijhora. A huge quantity of illegal timber along with machinery for cutting timber, were seized from each depot,� said a Forest official.
The Forest officials stated that the current raid was a surprise as unlike previous episodes, the current raid was assisted by locals.
�Earlier, when we went to raid such areas five years ago, there was a �gherao� by locals. This time, the youth came forward to support us. It just shows that the youth are more aware about environmental losses,� said DFO Sachin Gavade.
The DFO added that the lack of industry as well as confusion with the Assam-Meghalaya boundary was causing problems and aiding in the creation of illegal saw mills.
Earlier this year, the same task force had carried out raids in the Bhaitbari area where they were able to shut down six illegal saw mills.
�We appreciate the work being done by the task force�, said SR Sangma, president of CEPARD, an environmental NGO.