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Forest dept wakes up to fresh Amchang encroachment


GUWAHATI, May 9 - The State forest department has slapped over 30 notices so far on people who have allegedly encroached inside the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary taking advantage of the lockdown.

�We had been getting reports about fresh encroachments as well as expansion of those structures which already existed. The matter is currently subjudice and therefore, status quo must be maintained. We cannot allow encroachment inside the sanctuary,� Guwahati Wildlife Division DFO Jitendra Kumar said.

The Forest Ranger has been asked to intensify patrolling and fix the notices at the illegal structures found inside the sanctuary. So far, over thirty notices have been fixed, despite resistance by the encroachers.

In the notices, the encroachers have been given fifteen days� time to dismantle the structures, failing which eviction may be carried out any time.

�We have noticed structures about one km inside the existing boundary of the sanctuary,� a forest official said.

The Assam Tribune in March-end had reported that encroachers tried to burn down forests inside the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary, apparently in a bid to set up dwellings. Attempts have been made by the miscreants over the last few days in Birkuchi area.

In September, 2018, the Government of Assam had ordered a fresh survey of protected area by an independent authority � Survey of India. The task is yet to be completed.

The move to hand over the survey to an independent agency came after a disagreement between the forest department and district administration over a survey report for demarcation of forest land and revenue land in the sanctuary.

Evictions were carried out inside the sanctuary in 2017 on the directions of the Gauhati High Court, but the exercise was put on hold in the face of protests from the encroachers.

According to an affidavit filed by the forest department in the High Court, there are still more than 1,000 structures inside the sanctuary which are yet to be evicted.

The last eviction drive was carried out inside the sanctuary in November, 2017 after which the exercise remained suspended till the sanctuary was well demarcated. As many as 1,015 encroachments were removed from the sanctuary during that drive.

The government had prayed before the court to allow it to suspend the eviction temporarily �because in the large number of households, school-going students are preparing for annual examination and they shall suffer irreparably�.

Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary comprises three reserve forests � Khanapara Reserve Forest, Amchang Reserve Forest and South Amchang Reserve Forest. In 1953, the Khanapara Reserve Forest was declared with an area of 9.96 square kilometres. The Amchang Reserve Forest was declared in 1972 with an area of 53.18 square kilometres. In 1990, the South Amchang Reserve Forest was declared with an area of 15.50 sq km. Ultimately on June 19, 2004, Assam government declared these three reserve forests as Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is located within the geographical limits of 91.50`E to 92.03` East longitude and 26.08`N to 26.26`North latitude covering an area of almost 78.64 square kilometres.

There are 24 species of mammals in the sanctuary and among them some are very rare and endangered. The hoolock gibbon is feared to be lost as nobody has heard its mystic voice for a long time.

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