GUWAHATI, Nov 20 - Even as the number of incidents of environment related offences has gone up substantially at an all-India level, such cases have witnessed a decline in Assam.
As per latest official data, the State recorded a total of 105 environment related offences during 2017.
Of the total, 49 cases each were registered under The Forest Act and The Forest Conservation Act, 1927, and under The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, in Assam. Another seven cases were reported under The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003.
However, no case was reported under other laws like the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, or those relating to air, noise and water pollution.
The total number of cases in Assam in 2017 decreased on an annual basis as compared to 2016 when the State reported 149 incidences of environment related offences.
However, this happened even as the total number of such cases across India jumped by a whopping 790 per cent or by almost eight times year-on-year.
There were as many as 42,143 incidences of environment related offences in 2017 across the country, as against only 4,732 cases in the previous year.
Assam came at the 11th position with regard to the number of such offences among all the States and Union Territories.
Tamil Nadu with 20,914 incidents of environment related offences was at the top of the table, followed by Rajasthan with 10,122 cases and Kerala with 6,780.
There were 1,863 such incidents in Uttar Pradesh, 494 in Karnataka, 439 in Maharashtra, 307 in Telangana, 196 in Himachal Pradesh, 158 in Jharkhand and 135 in Andhra Pradesh.
However, barring Assam, the other north eastern States reported either none or very few such incidents.
As per latest data, the total number of environment related offences reported during 2017 in Arunachal Pradesh were two, while in Manipur and Mizoram there were only one such incident each. Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura did not report any such case in the year under review.
A total of 209 persons were arrested in Assam for being allegedly involved in environment related offences during 2017, while 143 were chargesheeted.
Nationwide, 40,720 were arrested for environment related offences that year.
Commenting on the issue, Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, Secretary General and CEO of noted biodiversity conservation NGO Aaranyak, told The Assam Tribune that while the number of cases may have gone down, the law enforcement agencies must keep the pressure on.
�Cases of rhino poaching have come down in our State. There has been improvement in the security, vigilance and intelligence gathering system compared to earlier periods. It is also encouraging to note that the Forest department and the police have started playing a more proactive role. The enforcement agencies must keep up the pressure. This is not the time to relax,� he said.
Talukdar added, �At the same time one must keep it in mind that when it comes to environment related offences there are many instances where they remain undetected.�
He said that efforts must be made to involve the local communities.
�The local communities can always act as the second line of defence. We must consider them as partners in wildlife conservation rather than looking at them as a threat,� Talukdar added. 2017 is the latest year for which the official data is available and it was released recently.