GUWAHATI, July 13 - Encroachment from the Meghalaya side on the pristine Garbhanga Reserved Forest, upstream of the Basistha river, with the tacit support of the local administration of the neighbouring State, has been posing a serious threat to the existence of not only this Reserved Forest (RF), but also this capital city of Assam, said PK Sarma.
Sarma, also the president of the Assam Real Estate and Infrastructure Developers� Association (AREIDA), has been trekking this naturally rich forest, like the other forest areas in and around the city, for the past about a decade as a nature lover. But recently, he has found that under the tutelage of their local administration, a gang of miscreants from Meghalaya side, led by a village headman, has wrought havoc on a vast area of this forest by destroying its flora and fauna in an irreparable manner.
A vast portion of the Garbhanga RF, on the banks of the Basistha river, had been encroached by rampaging land grabbers from Meghalaya, who had felled the trees, burnt the forest and thus denuded the hills. All these have resulted in a heavy silt-load on the Basistha river, which ultimately has to dump the excess silt in Guwahati. The land of the reserve forest was thereafter turned into the personal property of the miscreants, said Sarma.
He maintained that studies have found that denudation of the hills on and around the city have been causing soil erosion to the tune of 50 tonnes per hectares in a year. It takes Nature 1,000 years to create just one inch of fertile soil and it gets washed away in just one shower because of the denudation of the hills. If this state of affairs continues, the hills will be flattened and the city will be buried under the silts carried by storm run-off within the next 20 years, he warned.
He took photographs of the act of destruction done by miscreants of the forest area in this RF, and on July 7 last made an appeal to the Additional Chief Secretary to the Chief Minister MGVK Bhanu pleading for urgent steps.
On July 9 last, an operation was launched against the encroachers. A contingent of security forces comprising CRPF, Assam Police, and Forest Protection Force personnel, with magistrate Pratap Kathkotia, ACF Sunil Nath, as well as Sarma and his son, trekked through the hills and reached the spot by midday. The eviction of the encroachers was immediately started and concluded by the evening and the entire area was recovered from the clutches of the land grabbers, Sarma said.
This unique incident has various dimensions. First of all, the men, women, and officers of the State Government, district administration, police and Forest Department, deserve appreciation when such good work is done. It also demonstrates that conscious citizens have a very vital role to play in this regard. The massive organised illegal land-grabbing in hills, forests, wetlands and government lands of Guwahati, which has caused a catastrophic situation for Guwahatians today, perhaps would not have been possible if the law-abiding citizens had been more active, when such illegal activity had first started, he said.
He also made an appeal to the Guwahatians to actively associate themselves with the massive plantation drives undertaken by the Government to restore the damaged green cover of the city hills and forest areas.