SIVASISH THAKUR

GUWAHATI, Feb 7: Rampant illegal logging and encroachment in the biodiversity-rich Jeypore reserve forest, which has been added to the newly constituted Dehing Patkai National Park, has raised serious questions over the security arrangements in the state’s last remaining belt of rainforests.

In the latest instance, largescale tree felling has been reported in Nakphan area of Jeypore bordering Arunachal Pradesh. The area falls under the Sukanjuri beat of Jeypore.

According to information accessed by The Assam Tribune, several hundred trees have been felled in the area, thanks mainly to lax security. To make matters worse, there has also been encroachment by people from Arunachal Pradesh, with the authorities in Assam choosing to look the other way.

A Forest department official said that the area in question was part of the second addition to Jeypore and the security was being reinforced in the area. “Communication is a problem in those areas, as it cannot be accessed from the Assam side and we have to take a road through Arunachal Pradesh,” he said.

Conservationists have questioned the Forest department’s commitment in securing the Jeypore part of Dehing Patkai forests. “Lack of manpower and communication bottlenecks are an alibi. The district administration and police had earlier told the Forest authorities to requisition their manpower whenever necessary to tackle illegal logging encroachment but the Forest department has been slack in its approach,” a conservationist who has extensively documented the Dehing Patkai forests said.

“There is also an Assam Police battalion near the area. Why cannot the Forest department seek the battalion’s assistance in tackling the unabated vandalism in these pristine forests?” he questioned.

The significance of the Jeypore forest can hardly be overemphasised. Many of the nearly 50 species of mammals found in the sanctuary were documented in the Jeypore area during a camera-trapping study conducted by wildlife biologist Kashmira Kakati in 2007-2009.

It was for the first time in the world that seven species of cats including the tiger were recorded from just one site. Jeypore is also the area where one can see Assam’s state tree Holong at its magnificent best, towering over 50 metres. It is also a major habitat for elephants and India’s only ape, hoolock gibbon.