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Forest Dept�s complicity pushes Simolu trees to extinction in NL

By Farhana Ahmed

NORTH LAKHIMPUR, March 30 - The exotic Simolu (bombax) trees in Lakhimpur district are fast facing near extinction, thanks to complicity by the State Forest Department.

These majestic trees which contribute immensely to maintain balance of the biodiversity� mostly housing the greater adjutant stork (leptoptilos dubius) has been felled indiscriminately by timber �merchants� despite growing public awareness.

A recent incident of seizure by the public of a vehicle carrying planks of simalu trees near North Lakhimpur and subsequent insincere role by the concerned Forest Department officials shows the increased threat of extinction of this tree in Lakhimpur district.

On the night of March 24, villagers of No. 2 Haridaspur village in Bodhakora on the eastern suburb of North Lakhimpur detained a tractor carrying logs of illegally felled Simolu trees. The villagers had been disturbed by the nocturnal movement of vehicles carrying illegal timber through their village from the inland waterway ghats of Dorge and Bhurbandhaghat by the timber merchants taking the Subansiri-Bodhakora-Charaimaria village route to reach a saw mill.

The villagers informed the officials of the Forest Department immediately after detaining the timber-loaded tractor. However, before arrival of the forest personnel, a group of timber merchants arrived on the spot and tried to take away the tractor by intimidating the villagers.

Later, the forest personnel seized the timber, but allowed the tractor to leave. This infuriated the villagers, who alleged that a nexus exists between the district Forest Department and the illegal timer traffickers.

Another timber-loaded vehicle which had crossed the seized tractor on that night were also allowed by the forest personnel to enter the saw mill at Charaimoria, alleged the villagers of No.2 Haridaspur village. Indiscriminate felling of Simolu trees and its spurious trade has been on in Lakhimpur district despite a ban on the felling of this exotic tree.

A serious allegation against the Lakhimpur district Forest Department is that its personnel cut halfway through Simolu and other big trees inside the reserve forests in order to let them fall. This has been done in a bid to show their natural fall and be sold to timber dealers.

There has been a spurt in illegal felling of Simolu trees in the riverine areas off Subansiri in Lakhimpur and their supply to North Lakhimpur, Majuli and Jorhat in various forms and sizes. The river islands of Subansiri have witnessed mushrooming of illegal saw mills in recent times, where Simolu trees felled in nearby areas are sawn into different forms and size before being transported nocturnally to various timber depots in Lakhimpur and other adjoining areas.

The trees are felled with the help of chain saw and then transported to illegal saw mills in tractors to be cut into pieces before being supplied to various places under the cover of darkness. Such incidents are happening in Lohit-Khabolu, East Telahi, Ghunasuti and Daflakata areas off Subansiri river in Lakhimpur district.

Inland waterways ghats like Esarikata, Khabolu, Borghat, Na-Ali and Somdirimukh are witness to transportation of thousands of cubic feet of Simolu timber in Lakhimpur district almost every night. This is taking place despite the presence of district Forest Department personnel and other law-enforcing agencies.

Not surprisingly, the Forest Department as a matter of routine allows encroachers to settle in reserve forests and later threaten them of eviction, demanding money.

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Forest Dept�s complicity pushes Simolu trees to extinction in NL

NORTH LAKHIMPUR, March 30 - The exotic Simolu (bombax) trees in Lakhimpur district are fast facing near extinction, thanks to complicity by the State Forest Department.

These majestic trees which contribute immensely to maintain balance of the biodiversity� mostly housing the greater adjutant stork (leptoptilos dubius) has been felled indiscriminately by timber �merchants� despite growing public awareness.

A recent incident of seizure by the public of a vehicle carrying planks of simalu trees near North Lakhimpur and subsequent insincere role by the concerned Forest Department officials shows the increased threat of extinction of this tree in Lakhimpur district.

On the night of March 24, villagers of No. 2 Haridaspur village in Bodhakora on the eastern suburb of North Lakhimpur detained a tractor carrying logs of illegally felled Simolu trees. The villagers had been disturbed by the nocturnal movement of vehicles carrying illegal timber through their village from the inland waterway ghats of Dorge and Bhurbandhaghat by the timber merchants taking the Subansiri-Bodhakora-Charaimaria village route to reach a saw mill.

The villagers informed the officials of the Forest Department immediately after detaining the timber-loaded tractor. However, before arrival of the forest personnel, a group of timber merchants arrived on the spot and tried to take away the tractor by intimidating the villagers.

Later, the forest personnel seized the timber, but allowed the tractor to leave. This infuriated the villagers, who alleged that a nexus exists between the district Forest Department and the illegal timer traffickers.

Another timber-loaded vehicle which had crossed the seized tractor on that night were also allowed by the forest personnel to enter the saw mill at Charaimoria, alleged the villagers of No.2 Haridaspur village. Indiscriminate felling of Simolu trees and its spurious trade has been on in Lakhimpur district despite a ban on the felling of this exotic tree.

A serious allegation against the Lakhimpur district Forest Department is that its personnel cut halfway through Simolu and other big trees inside the reserve forests in order to let them fall. This has been done in a bid to show their natural fall and be sold to timber dealers.

There has been a spurt in illegal felling of Simolu trees in the riverine areas off Subansiri in Lakhimpur and their supply to North Lakhimpur, Majuli and Jorhat in various forms and sizes. The river islands of Subansiri have witnessed mushrooming of illegal saw mills in recent times, where Simolu trees felled in nearby areas are sawn into different forms and size before being transported nocturnally to various timber depots in Lakhimpur and other adjoining areas.

The trees are felled with the help of chain saw and then transported to illegal saw mills in tractors to be cut into pieces before being supplied to various places under the cover of darkness. Such incidents are happening in Lohit-Khabolu, East Telahi, Ghunasuti and Daflakata areas off Subansiri river in Lakhimpur district.

Inland waterways ghats like Esarikata, Khabolu, Borghat, Na-Ali and Somdirimukh are witness to transportation of thousands of cubic feet of Simolu timber in Lakhimpur district almost every night. This is taking place despite the presence of district Forest Department personnel and other law-enforcing agencies.

Not surprisingly, the Forest Department as a matter of routine allows encroachers to settle in reserve forests and later threaten them of eviction, demanding money.

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