GOLAKGANJ, April 23 � It has been observed that large-scale smuggling of valuable trees, sand and gravel and other forest produce is going on in the Mahamaya Reserve Forest under the Parbatjhora Forest Division of Kokrajhar district within the BTAD.
Located on the boundary of Dhubri district, the Mahamaya Reserve Forest is famous for its rich biodiversity comprising various natural products, valuable trees and medicinal plants. It also provides shelter to rare species of wild animals. The reserve forest covering 9,798 hectares of land is the habitat of tigers, deer, wild cows, jackals, storks, white-backed vultures, different species of snakes and other rare wildlife.
But of late, the wild animals have been facing impending danger due to the unabated destruction of the forest. Many areas of the forest have turned into human habitations, while many areas have turned barren because of large-scale felling of trees. Because of these activities, the ecological balance of the forest has been jeopardised, opined intellectuals and nature lovers.
It may be mentioned here that the Aranya Suraksha Samiti has demanded the conversion of the Mahamaya Reserve Forest into a wildlife sanctuary, besides its promotion as a tourist destination. The voluntary organisation had earlier submitted a memorandum, incorporating signatures of thousands of local people, to the Chief Minister and the Forest Minister in this regard. The signatories to the memorandum included former Chief Minister Sarat Chandra Sinha.
While the memorandum has been lying in cold storage, unabated deforestation is going on in the reserve forest, with the timber smugglers having a field day. Valuable trees like sal, segun, chama and titachapa are being felled with the timber being sold in different markets under the very nose of the Forest Department as well as the police.
Timber smuggling is also going on through the river route. It, however, needs mention that Forest personnel, armed with sticks and .303 rifles, cannot match the sophisticated fire-power of the timber smugglers.
Unfortunately the Government of Assam has not taken any action to stop the destruction of forests in utter neglect of public demand. It has also been observed that a large number of illegal saw mills have been operating in the villages located on the banks of the Tipkai river.
Apart from timber smuggling, a number of wild animals have also been killed by hunters with their flesh and body parts being sold in the black market. It is also observed that the bark of some trees and seeds of medicinal plants are being sold in a clandestine manner by smugglers.
Sand and gravel are the other forest wealth on which the smugglers feast, depriving the Government revenue worth lakhs of rupees. Silbari, Khoraghat and Tipkai rivers under the Parbatjhora Forest Division are the major sources of sand and gravel that have been smuggled out.
In spite of public complaints, the authorities concerned are turning a blind eye to these illegal activities. As a result, the revenue collection of both the BTAD and the State Government has decreased to a great extent.