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BSF troopers caught felling trees in reserve forest

By The Assam Tribune

Shillong, June 23 (IANS): Six Border Security Force (BSF) troopers were caught red-handed while felling Sal trees inside a government reserve forest in the South Garo hills district of Meghalaya, an official said on Wednesday.

"A routine forest patrol spotted BSF personnel cutting down Sal (Shorea robusta) trees and loading them in a truck inside Baghmara Reserve Forest," PR Marak, the Divisional Forest Officer, told IANS. The incident occurred on June 19, he said.

The forest officer said a show cause notice has been served to Dharam Dayal, the constable who was leading the team, to appear before the forest official at Baghmara.

Felled Sal tree trunks were seized from the truck inside the reserve forest. "The truck's number plate was painted over with diesel and mud to hide its identity," Marak said. However, the constable is yet to come forward and record his statement.

"Further legal proceedings will be pursued," Marak said.

When contacted, the BSF authorities said an internal probe will be conducted to unravel the truth in the alleged illegal felling of trees by the BSF troopers. "It's news to me and I have no knowledge about it, but an internal probe will be ordered to unravel the facts," G.S. Choudhary, Deputy Inspector of General BSF in-charge Tura Range, told IANS.

He promised that action will be taken against those found guilty.

Baghmara Reserve Forest, located in South Garo Hills district bordering Bangladesh, is a crucial wildlife habitat.

Some of the key animal species found in the reserve include the Asian elephant, marbled cat, Hoolock Gibbon, leopard, and Malayan giant squirrel and it has been reported to be a hotspot for numerous butterfly and bird species.

There have been reports of smuggling of timber to Bangladesh and the reported involvement of Bangladesh nationals in timber smuggling in the Balpakram Baghmara Landscape.

Despite strong border fencing, logs are smuggled through rivers flowing down to Bangladesh.

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