DIGBOI, May 20 � The Namphai reserve forest area falling under the Upper Dehing rainforest within the Jagun range is facing a severe threat of extinction due to continued grabbing of the forest land by hordes of illegal grabbers coming from outside the district. The grabbing began as early as 1996 and has since continued in spite of the combined efforts of the Digboi Division of Forest, Tinsukia district and Margherita subdivision authorities to clear the reserve forest area from these illegal encroachers on several occasions.
The area under Namphai reserve forest is around 2,500 hectares and at the moment, around 1,400 hectares have already been in the grab of these encroachers. The original batch of the encroachers is having their sway upon an area of 1,200 hectares, while a fresh batch entered the area on February 17, 2010. On October 24, 2010, the forest personnel with the support of the local people could drive away the unlawful encroachers and save the encroached portion of the rainforest.
But the clearance was only for a temporary period. For the same batch of encroachers after a short period returned to the reserve and occupied the land. The fresh batch of the encroachers has occupied an area of around 200 hectares. The process, if not checked by timely measures by the authorities, is sure to lay bare the entire Namphai segment of the Upper Dehing rainforest in no time.
It is reported that these encroachers pose themselves as flood affected people from a different district. Till now, the eviction exercises have been carried out for as many as five times. But the encroachers seem defiant. They also seem to be taking advantage of the too scanty forest staff to exercise effective control. It is learnt that the area of the entire Digboi Forest Division is 650 sq km and it is protected by a meagre 35 forest guards. Therefore, one forest guard has to control an area of 18.5 sq km. The current staffing pattern is not even 50 per cent of what was provided in the base year of 1960.
The unchecked encroachment of the Namphai reserve forest will have a strongly negative impact upon the environment of the whole area affecting the ecological balance of the entire Upper Dehing region.
When contacted, Puru Gupta, District Magistrate of Tinsukia and Adil Khan, Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Margherita told this correspondent about their seriousness in sorting out a peaceful solution to clear the entire Namphai reserve forest from illegal occupation and restore the ecological balance of the region. Khan informed that the District Magistrate of Tinsukia, the Superintendent of Police of the district, the DFO of Digboi Division and himself had visited the area recently to study the overall impact.
The enlightened section of the public is of the opinion that the law and the principles of public governance must proceed hand in hand in the matter of restoration of the Namphai reserve forest from the unlawful hands of the encroachers.