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Plot to tweak Amchang map thwarted

By Rituraj Borthakur

GUWAHATI, Sept 30 - Days after The Assam Tribune exposed a �plot� by officials to tweak the map of Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary in a bid to legalise encroachment, the Assam government has ordered a fresh survey of the protected area, this time by an independent authority.

The move came after the intervention of Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya.

Sources said the issue was taken up in the latest meeting of the Amchang rehabilitation committee which is chaired by the Forest Minister.

�The disagreement of the forest department over the final survey report for demarcation of forest land and revenue land in Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary was taken up. The PCCF (Wildlife) was directed to write to the Survey of India to carry out a survey of the entire area of the sanctuary,� sources said.

�The Survey of India is an independent authority, so there should not be any scope of any interference,� the sources added.

The meeting also decided to form a subcommittee to be headed by legislator Bhuban Pegu and the Kamrup Metro deputy commissioner as convenor �to sort out the issue of the Joint Survey report and the notification of Amchang WLS within one month.�

After submission of the report by the subcommittee, a decision on the rehabilitation package to the evicted families of Amchang will be taken.

After the eviction drive carried out inside the sanctuary on the directions of the Gauhati High Court was put on hold last year in the face of protests from the encroachers, a committee headed by the deputy commissioner was tasked to conduct a survey of the wildlife sanctuary and submit a report. The committee comprised representatives from the circle offices, forest and survey departments, GMDA and other agencies.

Some members of the DC-headed committee wanted a change in the bearings (grid lines) of Amchang map, apparently to legalise encroachment, particularly business enterprises. The move had met with strong reservation from the forest department, so much so that the PCCF office communicated its objection to the committee in writing.

The forest department had earlier submitted a map of Amchang to the court, and any changes in it would be contempt.

According to an affidavit filed by the forest department in the high court, there are still more than 1,000 structures inside the sanctuary which are yet to be evicted.

The last eviction drive was carried out inside the sanctuary on November 27, 28 and 29 after which the exercise remained suspended. As many as 1,015 encroachments were removed from the sanctuary during that drive.

The government had prayed before the court to allow it to suspend the eviction temporarily �because in the large number of households, school-going students are preparing for annual examination and they shall suffer irreparably.� The court was also told that �some of the evicted encroachers are spending their nights in the jungle and they have refused to leave the forest areas and the State government on humanitarian ground is contemplating to work out a rehabilitation package for erosion and flood affected landless persons� who have settled there.

The Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary comprises three reserve forests � Khanapara reserve forest, Amchang reserve forest and South Amchang reserve forest. In 1953, the Khanapara reserve forest was declared with an area of 9.96 sq km. The Amchang reserve forest was declared in 1972 with an area of 53.18 sq km. In 1990, the South Amchang reserve forest was declared with an area of 15.50 sq km. Ultimately on June 19, 2004, the Assam government declared these three reserve forests as Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is located within the geographical limits of 91.50 degree East to 92.03 degree East longitudes and 26.08 degree North to 26.26 degree North latitudes, covering an area of 78.64 sq km.

There are 24 species of mammals in the sanctuary and among them some are very rare and endangered, and among them, hoolock gibbon is feared to be lost as nobody had hard its mystic voice for a long time.

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Plot to tweak Amchang map thwarted

GUWAHATI, Sept 30 - Days after The Assam Tribune exposed a �plot� by officials to tweak the map of Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary in a bid to legalise encroachment, the Assam government has ordered a fresh survey of the protected area, this time by an independent authority.

The move came after the intervention of Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya.

Sources said the issue was taken up in the latest meeting of the Amchang rehabilitation committee which is chaired by the Forest Minister.

�The disagreement of the forest department over the final survey report for demarcation of forest land and revenue land in Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary was taken up. The PCCF (Wildlife) was directed to write to the Survey of India to carry out a survey of the entire area of the sanctuary,� sources said.

�The Survey of India is an independent authority, so there should not be any scope of any interference,� the sources added.

The meeting also decided to form a subcommittee to be headed by legislator Bhuban Pegu and the Kamrup Metro deputy commissioner as convenor �to sort out the issue of the Joint Survey report and the notification of Amchang WLS within one month.�

After submission of the report by the subcommittee, a decision on the rehabilitation package to the evicted families of Amchang will be taken.

After the eviction drive carried out inside the sanctuary on the directions of the Gauhati High Court was put on hold last year in the face of protests from the encroachers, a committee headed by the deputy commissioner was tasked to conduct a survey of the wildlife sanctuary and submit a report. The committee comprised representatives from the circle offices, forest and survey departments, GMDA and other agencies.

Some members of the DC-headed committee wanted a change in the bearings (grid lines) of Amchang map, apparently to legalise encroachment, particularly business enterprises. The move had met with strong reservation from the forest department, so much so that the PCCF office communicated its objection to the committee in writing.

The forest department had earlier submitted a map of Amchang to the court, and any changes in it would be contempt.

According to an affidavit filed by the forest department in the high court, there are still more than 1,000 structures inside the sanctuary which are yet to be evicted.

The last eviction drive was carried out inside the sanctuary on November 27, 28 and 29 after which the exercise remained suspended. As many as 1,015 encroachments were removed from the sanctuary during that drive.

The government had prayed before the court to allow it to suspend the eviction temporarily �because in the large number of households, school-going students are preparing for annual examination and they shall suffer irreparably.� The court was also told that �some of the evicted encroachers are spending their nights in the jungle and they have refused to leave the forest areas and the State government on humanitarian ground is contemplating to work out a rehabilitation package for erosion and flood affected landless persons� who have settled there.

The Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary comprises three reserve forests � Khanapara reserve forest, Amchang reserve forest and South Amchang reserve forest. In 1953, the Khanapara reserve forest was declared with an area of 9.96 sq km. The Amchang reserve forest was declared in 1972 with an area of 53.18 sq km. In 1990, the South Amchang reserve forest was declared with an area of 15.50 sq km. Ultimately on June 19, 2004, the Assam government declared these three reserve forests as Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is located within the geographical limits of 91.50 degree East to 92.03 degree East longitudes and 26.08 degree North to 26.26 degree North latitudes, covering an area of 78.64 sq km.

There are 24 species of mammals in the sanctuary and among them some are very rare and endangered, and among them, hoolock gibbon is feared to be lost as nobody had hard its mystic voice for a long time.

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