Reassess indiscriminate issue of licenses for wood based industries

Monday Musing

[ Junroi Mamai ]

Indiscriminate issuing of license for wood based industries in the state needs to be checked to protect our pristine forest resources which are continuously on the decline with each passing year. According to an April 2022 government report, of all the north eastern states, Arunachal Pradesh lost the maximum forest cover of around 257 sq kms in 2021.

Our state is witnessing rapid mushrooming of saw/veneer mills and wood based industries right under the noses of the authorities. Despite strict guidelines in place, the government and the ministry of environment and forest and climate change (MoEF&CC) have failed to effectively monitor these factories.

There is widespread violation of Working Plan 2014 in the state post the blanket ban by the Supreme Court in 1996 on the movement of timber within and from the northeast to any part of the country.

No infrastructures have been constituted by the state’s forest department to implement the Working Plan and other guidelines like Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) on the ground.

Moreover, the state forest department has neither trained staff nor adequate equipments to monitor the day to day business activity of the timber industry. Excessive deforestation in many areas goes unreported. Forest rangers and territorial jurisdiction of forest department seldom collect needful data relating to different species and biodiversity. All these are grave violations of the Working Plan 2014.

According to the Working Plan 2014, if one species is more in population than the other then some calculated cutting of more species is permitted so that other species may maintain their bio diversity. Whilst fresh felling of trees is strictly prohibited only windfall timber is allowed to salvage through auctioning by forest official. Further, a distance of 10 mtrs from any creek or drinking water source should be maintained in any exploitation.

Sadly, driven by greed to gain maximum profit, the licensee of these wood based factories are destroying reserved as well as virgin and community forests. They are indiscriminately exploiting forest wealth at the cost of environment and rapid climate change.

Undoubtedly, the state government’s motive behind issuing licenses for wood based industries is to provide employment for locals however, in reality only residuary and marginal contract profits accrue to the locals down the line of forest industry and entrepreneurship.

Most of the MSMEs of wood based industries are run by non-locals though all licenses are procured by tribal people of the state. All income generated by these establishments are garnered by people from outside the state including labor and employment.

The government is indirectly aiding the merchants to exploit the forest resources at the cost of environment and rapid climate change.

We have all witnessed since the last few years how our state is gradually facing shortage of water because of fast depleting trees and other biodiversity reserves. If this dangerous trend is allowed to continue there will be acute water shortage in the coming days.

Government must respond to these future challenges by taking peremptory measures including cancellation of saw and ply industries licenses. If the state government is unable to effectively implement the Working Plan then it must cease all commercial exploitation of the state forest reserves.