GUWAHATI, Sept 9 � Pressure is building on the State Forest Department to allow conversion of forest land to a range of purposes which have nothing to do with conservation or promotion of biodiversity. A number of permissions have already been issued in the last five years and some are pending, well placed officials told The Assam Tribune.
It was disclosed that pressure was mounting from some quarters to open areas so that stone quarries can be opened or expanded. In a few cases, permission was sought to acquire stones from river, while in other cases forest land was sought after for expanding infrastructure.
Information acquired from the Forest Department indicated that a new stone quarry at Joypur Reserve Forest in Dibrugarh may be opened, which will cover around 4.5 ha of natural landscape.
Another proposal pending the department's approval related to collection of stone materials from Dilli river bed in Joypur Reserve Forest. If allowed, it would encompass an area of 2 ha.
Diversion of forest land has been sought in the already deforested Kamrup district which contains high population density. At least one proposal has been pending that seeks permission to open a stone quarry at Agyathuri under North Kamrup Division.
Drawing of electricity transmission lines has also called for conversion of forest lands, and a six hectare area will be required to draw a 66 KV transmission line in Kumsung RF under Doomdooma division in Dhemaji district.
Other cases which are awaiting the final nod relate to diversion of forest land for laying gas pipe line under Sivsagar division and a plot to establish a metering station at Kharghat by Assam Gas Company in Golaghat.
Conservation groups which have kept watch over recent developments want the Forest Department to be cautious and transparent in approving cases involving conversion of forest land to other users. Some of them have pointed out that there are cases in which the change in land-use pattern was more extensive than what was approved by the forest department.
Conservation groups like Aaranyak and WWF have previously voiced their concerns over changes in land use pattern in areas which are rich in biodiversity, some of them containing rare and endangered flora and fauna.