GUWAHATI, June 16 - For more than ten years now, forest officials in the State divisions are functioning without any approved �working plan� for managing the forests under their jurisdictions.
Each forest division has to have its own working plan which is essentially a scientific plan detailing the existing forest wealth � land, flora, fauna and water resources � describing the climatic and biotic factors and prescribing management practices and conserve, preserve and efficiently utilize this forest resource.
�A working plan is a perspective and systemic plan which includes area specific prescription to maintain the shape of the forest, by considering various factors, including public demand, maintenance of green cover, wildlife, new plantations etc. The plans are based on the previous plans,� the official added.
In a judgement in 1996, the Supreme Court had made it mandatory for all forest areas to be managed according to a scientific working plan.
�Without an approved working plan you cannot carry out timber operations in the forest areas. A lot of sal and teak plantations in the State are ageing and can be put for commercial use. Now, as we don�t have a working plan, only the wind fallen trees can be removed,� a senior forest official told The Assam Tribune.
Eventually, this will also be an impediment in the thinning of the plantation areas.
Thinning is the selective removal of medium grown trees (after four-five years of planting them), primarily undertaken to improve the growth rate or health of the remaining trees by increasing the distance between two trees. Overcrowded trees are under competitive stress from their neighbours.
�You have to maintain distance between two trees. But if you don�t have a working plan you cannot carry out the exercise,� he added.
A working plan � which is a legal sanction for managing a forest and removing old trees � is generally made for ten years. But forest officials could not recall when the last approved working plan was in force in the divisions.
The 13th Finance Commission had also flagged the matter during discussions with the State government. Funds from the Central government are also released on the basis of the working plan.
Sources said about two-three years back, the forest divisions had made their working plans and had submitted them to the State government. Some have been even forwarded to the Central government. But none has been approved till date, sources said.