GUWAHATI, Sept 9 - Contrary to the avowed resolve of the State government to protect forest and environment, the Kamrup (Metro) district administration has allotted a forest area �contiguous� to the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary in the city, measuring around 250 bighas under Dag No 157 (part), to the First Battalion of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
The number of standing trees being felled to facilitate the site for setting up the NDRF battalion camp is estimated to be around 221. Of them 211 are big trees.
The Divisional Forest Officer, Guwahati Wildlife Division wrote to the Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup (Metro) on January 5, 2017, �� the plot of land allotted to the 1st Bn NDRF at Amchang NC is literally a forest area having beautiful forest cover and is contiguous to Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary almost in the middle part of it. The entire landscape with the plot of land allotted to NDRF is used by wild animals including elephants of Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary as an ideal habitat.�
The DFO further said in his letter to the DC, Kamrup (M), �Moreover, the said plot is situated within the eco-sensitive zone of Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary.�
The DFO warned that the proposal to fell a large number of trees coupled with massive earth cutting at the site is going to alter the environment adversely for the wild animals in situ and in the contiguous wildlife sanctuary and would result in more conflicts between the fringe villagers and wild animals.
In a joint inspection carried out by officials of the Sonapur Revenue Circle, Kamrup East Division and Guwahati Wildlife Division, it was found that as many as 211 big natural trees would have to be felled on the allotted site. The undergrowth would also have to be removed completely. Besides, 1, 97,600 cubic metres of earth would also be cut. Subsequently, the area would also be blocked by concrete boundary walls. This would lead to a permanent fragmentation of the wildlife habitat in that area.
Besides, the 2 km-long approach road to the plot is a forest road passing through the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary. The DFO said development of this part of road by the NDRF up to its requirement in future would attract provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 too.
But the District Magistrate of Kamrup (Metro) in his March 2, 2017 order allowed excavation of �ordinary earth� and felling of trees in the proposed site �with a plantation programme of 1:4 ratio in consultation with the DFO concerned�.
The Kamrup (Metro) District Magistrate vide another order dated March 6, 2017, which was reportedly based on the findings of the Circle Officer, Sonapur Revenue Circle, stated that the allotted plot of land �cannot be termed as ideal habitat for wild animals�.
Following this, the DFO Kamrup East Division wrote to the Chief Conservator of Forests (T), Central Assam Circle, Guwahati, stating, among others, that in the joint verification carried out by the officials of the Sonapur Revenue Circle and Guwahati Wildlife Division on October 14, 2016, officers present confirmed that the said plot of land has a common southern boundary with the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Range Officer, Khanapara Range confirmed that as per the joint survey of the forest department, revenue department and Assam Survey, about 12 bighas of the allotted land fall inside the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary and the entire allotted plot of land falls well inside the eco-sensitive zone of the sanctuary.