Illegal logging on the rise in Arunachal

Itanagar, Nov 24: Despite Supreme Courts ban on timber operations in Arunachal Pradesh, illegal logging at Pasighat Reserve Forest in East Siang district continues unabated.
Hundreds of timber trees have been felled by the mafias during the monsoons, posing a serious challenge to the officers of the forest department, additional deputy chief conservator of forest (ADCF) Tasang Taga said.
Recently, a team of forest officials, led by Taga, seized heaps of timber logs, especially of Hollock (Terminalia Myriocarpa) variety, from Loki – a riverine island – under Pasighat reserve forest.
“The mafias take advantage of the flood situation in the area during the monsoon season. We came across 100 stumps in Loki. There could be more in other parts of the reserve forest,” said Taga, who is in charge of a mobile squad under chief conservator of forest of central Arunachal circle.
Taga also rued the lack of means for proper patrolling in the reserve forest.
“Hollock trees have a huge demand in the timber market. The mafias use power chain saw and push cart with motor bike wheels to cut down and skid the logs to the Siang River. There they build a raft that could float down the river. But we do not have enough manpower to control the menace,” he explained.
Pasighat Range Forest Officer (RFO) Jumgo Geyi said the department had been trying their best to stop illegal felling in the area, notwithstanding the adverse weather conditions during the monsoons.
“On several occasions, we have arrested people involved in illegal timber operations, but all of them got their bail pretty easily. I have even engaged a local youth, paying him Rs 3000 from my pocket, to keep vigil on such activities,” Geyi said.
Around ninety per cent of staff under Pasighat forest division is women. They keep a tab on the check gates and nursery or engage themselves in administrative works. Only a few officials are tasked with patrolling duties, he said.
“Arunachal lacks its own Forest Act and for tackling such activities, the state still goes by the forest laws of Assam,” Geyi added.
Illegal timber operations are also rampant at Mebo reserve forest in the district, Range Forest Officer Obang Tayeng admitted.
The department was short of manpower and equipment to deal with such activities, he said.
“At times we are not even in a position to bring the seized logs from jungles to our office for auctioning due to lack of vehicles. Also, it takes time to process funds for auctioning under Suspense Work Advance Recovery (SWAR),” Tayeng added.
According to the forest officials, the easy availability of power chain saws in the market needs to be regulated by the state government to check the felling of trees.
Lok Sabha MP from Arunachal East constituency Ninong Ering said he had had informed Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Tabang Jamoh and East Siang SP Pranav Tayal about the illegal logging operations, but not much was done about it.
“No initiatives were taken to stop the illegal activities during the monsoons,” Ering added. (PTI)