MORIGAON, July 19 - Wanton destruction of forests is going on unabated in Morigaon district, causing widespread concern among the people.
Though the Forest Department recently observed the 69th Van Mahotsav at Nellie-Silsang in Morigaon district, where senior officials including Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal appealed to the people to preserve the forest cover, yet illegal felling of trees in Baghara, Tetelia, and Sonaikuchi hills is going on right under the nose of the department.
From a spot study, this correspondent found 12 illegal saw mills operating in and around Jagiroad and Dharamtul forest ranges in Morigaon district. Though the authorities had banned all illegal saw mills, some are still running at Kumoi, Tetelia, Jagi, Amkata, Ghaguwa etc. Thus, the illegal sawing of valuable trees and a nexus between traders and forest officers is quite evident.
Another illegal business of sand and stone crushing is a common phenomenon in Morigaon district, harming both the forests and the environment.
The administration has given permission allegedly to relatives of a BJP leader for opening a mega stone-crushing facility. Protests by poor tribals fell on deaf ears, even as the government is losing revenue as illegal traders collect sand and stones from hills of the district with fake or expired permits.
The district authorities have also given permission to traders to open brick kilns allegedly in agricultural and forest land, resulting in pollution and destruction of forests in Morigaon district.
Though plantation and preservation of trees is a duty of the Forest Department, yet forest officials seem to be least concerned. The department has done nothing to create public awareness about protecting premature trees planted alongside roads of the district.
Several NGOs were involved in the plantation works in the district. Puberun Youth Club and Jibon Jeuti Krishak Sangha � two youth organisations � voluntarily planted more than 5,000 saplings along the Jagiroad-Morigaon state highway. They said they will be planting more than 10,000 saplings, but their maintenance was the duty of the Forest Department.