Arunachal forest dept under NGT scanner on logging, NGT disappointed by lack of action

Photo courtesy: Twitter @JorjoTara

Hornbill nesting tree logged at Taraso Nallah

[ Tongam Rina ]

ITANAGAR, Nov 10: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) principal bench has expressed disappointment over the lack of action by the Arunachal government in stopping illegal logging.

The NGT in its order on 9 November, while hearing the case of illegal logging being carried out in Papum forest under the Khellong forest division, filed by anti-logging activist Jorjo Tana Tara, said that the direction given in August 2109 has been not been complied with by the state. The Papum reserve forest comes under the buffer zone of the Pakke tiger reserve.

“It is quite apparent that there has been hardly any progress made after the order dated 30.08.2019 passed by the tribunalā€¦ we had pointed out serious lacunae in the administration of the forest area by the state. Even the directions of the Supreme Court do not appear to have been complied with,” read the order issued by Justice SP Wangdi and expert member Saibal Dasgupta.

They noted that, though the report filed on behalf of the state pointed out that certain action has been taken, no tangible result appears to have emerged.

“We are rather disappointed to note that although we are in November of 2020, directions contained in the order dated 30.08.2019, which includes enhancement of the strength of the personnel, are yet to be complied.”

In August 2019, the NGT had directed the state to take appropriate action to identify the “hotspots” where illegal felling of trees and deforestation are taking place.

The NGT further had in a 2019 order directed that the strength of the forest personnel at all levels should be enhanced, considering the size of the huge tract of forest land that plays the role of a carbon sink and is considered the lungs of the country. It also called for ensuring effective enforcement of the forest laws, and protection of the rich forest resources.

In its latest order, the NGT directed that the state “consider taking interim measures in view of the urgency of the situation, which may include induction of retired personnel of the forest department, as well as personnel of the state’s armed policeā€¦ for patrolling the hotspots in the forest area.”

It said that the applicant (Tara) has made a useful suggestion of identifying hotspots where the illegalities are rampant.

It further stated that the state may take measures to make use of the forest cover map prepared with the help of satellite imageries by the Forest Survey of India, Dehradun, of the very affected districts (hotspots) to observe the change in forest cover that has occurred over a time period of 10 years, which would be helpful in evolving an action plan to deal with this issue.

It asked Arunachal to file a status report of the actions taken thus far. The next hearing is up on 6 January, 2021.

Tara had strong words for the department and the state government as he accused them of lying while not doing enough to curb illegal logging. He said that, despite repeated appeals, cases of logging continue in the area. He said that the state is not serious about curbing illegal logging, despite the NGT’s orders, as it has failed to recruit a special task force or take preventive measures to contain logging.

Kanika Sood, who is appearing on behalf of Tara, expressed hope that, after the latest NGT order, strict action would be initiated by the sate government and the forest department. She said that the lax attitude of the state government and the forest department is allowing illegal logging and crime to proliferate in the state.

Hornbill nesting tree logged at Taraso Nallah

A hornbill nesting tree at Taraso Nallah, which falls under the Papum reserve forest in Khellong forest division, was cut down on 3 November. The tree was being used by the oriental pied hornbill for nesting this year, and had been used by hornbills since 2013. There were no hornbills inside as the breeding season is over by July. Hornbills are secondary nesters; therefore the nest trees are extremely important with regard to breeding success.

Earlier, in its report to the NGT in 2019, the state’s forest department had admitted that illicit felling of trees was continuing in the Khellong forest division “but not to the extent as has been projected.”

However, Tara says that logging has not stopped, as the forest dept remains a mere spectator.