[ Junroi Mamai ]
The rampant logging of trees being carried out for the last couple of years within the unclassified 42.77 sq km Namdang forest area in Changlang district has led to large-scale destruction of the forest.
Sawmills operating in the area have been carrying out unregulated felling of trees, exceeding their annual forest quota which is enshrined in the working plan 2015-’16 as allocated to the sawmills.
As per the national forest policy, no forest should be permitted to be worked without an approved working plan by a competent authority. Also, the authority designated by the union environment & forests ministry will have to approve the working plan and ensure its implementation. It means that no commercial extraction of forest resources can be allowed until a working plan has been prepared by the authority concerned of the forest department.
All this was clearly prescribed under the national working plan code by the environment & forests ministry in 2014 to ensure sustainable management, conservation and utilization of forest resources.
However, despite such directives, these sawmills continue to function and extract forest resources unhindered in spite of complaints from the locals. On 17 May, 2017, the PRI leaders of Rangkatu, Chokdok and Kengkhu villages in a joint complaint letter to the Changlang district administration stated that their village community forest has been severely destroyed by the owners of the sawmills, and sought an inquiry into the rampant illegal logging within the forest area.
Though the then DC had in response to the complaint from the PRI leaders written to the Changlang divisional forest officer, directing him to submit a detailed report, no concrete step was taken to check the unregulated destruction of the forests there.
Presently, there are five sawmills operating in the area which need a regular supply of timber round the year. These mills have been functioning in complete violation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. They have also constructed new roads leading into dense forest hinterlands and both sides of the streams and rivulets. These sawmills engage excavators and even use elephants for hauling timber by bribing some of the locals. If not checked soon, large portions of the community forest land will be destroyed, causing irreparable damage to the rich flora and fauna of the region.
The forest department authorities urgently need to step up and take steps to check the rampant destruction of the forest division and ensure proper monitoring to maintain sustainable management of the forests and the overall biodiversity.