GUWAHATI, April 7 - Though India has signed the international protocol on climate change, none of the major political parties of Assam has a clear-cut policy on protecting the environment and forests of the State. All parties agreed that there is a need for protecting the forests, but none of them is ready to announce whether they would try to clear the forests from encroachment if voted to power.
According to reports of the Forest Survey of India, the forest cover in the State is coming down drastically every year, while poaching of rhinos has become a serious cause of concern.
The Assam Tribune spoke to the leaders of the major political parties on the issue. Those now in the Opposition blamed the State government for rhino killings, while the Congress put the blame on the Centre.
Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Anjan Dutta said that the incidents of rhino poaching have come down. He said that State government�s proposals to increase forces to protect rhinos are pending with the Government of India and that the recent policy changes of the Centre also affected the State. He said that encroachment on the forests along the inter-State border areas is a major cause of worry.
Replying to a question on whether the Congress supports eviction of encroachers, he said that the Acts and rules should be followed.
BJP�s chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal said that making the State green would be one of the priorities if the BJP-led alliance comes to power. He said that all possible measures would be taken to protect the rhinos. However, he did not spell out the details as to how the BJP would go about it if voted to power.
AGP president Atul Bora alleged that the Congress government totally failed to protect the rhinos. Security should be intensified to protect rhinos and if possible, a special force with local youths should be created. He also alleged that a large number of suspected foreigners are encroaching on forest land. Bora, however, said that AGP is against eviction of indigenous people.
All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) spokesman Aminul Islam said failure of the government to protect rhinos should be a major issue. He said that the forest protection laws should be strictly implemented and accountability should be fixed.