GOLAKGANJ, Nov 14 � The forests of Dhubri district are facing a virtual wipeout.
The roads along which trees were beautifully lined, now look much the worse for a malady of epidemic proportions � timber smuggling. This practice has taken its toll on the entire area even if a few families live life to the fullest from profits earned through this clandestine trade.
In Dhubri district, till a couple of years ago, huge trees planted in the pre-Independence period would stand clustered nicely on both sides of the highways. Those trees would not only protect the highways from erosion, but were considered enormously important for the ecological balance as well. But over the past few years, the area is wearing a barren look. The number of trees is going down like anything.
People watch the plunder helplessly while the administration chooses to turn a blind eye and the mafias are having a field day. Nothing can be more hopeless than this. Ministers and Government officials who pass through these places choose not to take notice. There is absolute resignation in their response. No questions are asked as to where the trees go or who the culprits are. Worse is the fact that some Forest Department employees make things easy for the mafia.
According to data available here, forests areas in Dhubri district like Salkocha, Chandardinga, Makrijhora, Panbari etc., have been occupied by immigrants of doubtful antecedents under the very nose of the forest authorities. These forests have become a haven for illegal timber smugglers since the last several years.
These were once virgin forests famous for valuable trees like sal, gameri, segun, titasopa and bonsom. It is learnt that the timber businessmen encouraged the local poor people to fell trees from the deep jungles and to transport these by means of handcarts and bullock-carts. The people delivered the logs to the businessmen at the site where trucks could be parked.
Destruction of forest resources, smuggling and encroachment in Salkocha, Makrijhora, Panbari and Chandardinga forest has become a regular affair. Sources said some people are engaged in the smuggling of valuable logs like sisu, segun and khour. In some areas, students have even left schools and colleges and have engaged themselves in the roaring timber smuggling business.
The forest areas near the villages are most vulnerable. Larger the population near the forests, higher the cases of thefts. Usually, 8-10 people form a forest beat whose area of operation covers between 10 and 15 sq km. But with 1-2 guns at its disposal, the strength is hopelessly limited. Whenever a theft is reported, life is miserable for the members of the beat. The Forest Protection Force is hardly a �friend in need�. The Forest Department is said to be hamstrung by staff shortage. The security staff posted in remote areas are bullied by the local �mafia�. The local people are too scared to come forward. The security men are overtaken by a sense of fear and isolation. Obviously, they soon lose interest, and of course, courage.
Kulodhar Das, director of Nature�s Friend, which is a leading NGO of Dhubri, is on record to have expressed serious concern over the need to stop such criminal activities and conveyed the same to the Forest Ministry.
Legal action must be immediately initiated in order to stop cutting of trees, which has become a grave threat not only to Assam and India, but also for the entire world, because global warming has threatened to wipe out the ecology and civilisations alike.