Poaching, illegal forest trade figure in Assam House

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Guwahati, Mar 7 (UNI) The Assam Assembly today witnessed noisy scenes during Question Hour over discussion on forest area encroachment and poaching.

The Opposition alleged that poaching was continuing unabated in the state and the government had failed in protecting wildlife as well as forest areas.

AGP chief Brindabon Goswami, in a question to Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain, sought details regarding forest area encroachment and the government's steps to check poaching, especially of the one-horned rhino.

Mr Hussain maintained that the department was doing its best to check poaching and, citing an enquiry committee report, denied the involvement of any forest officials, as alleged by the Opposition. On illegal felling and trade of forest products, he said the government had evidence of such illegal trade, especially of Agar wood, being carried in protection of some powerful individuals.

''However, whenever we try to raid these places, it is construed as politically motivated and we are pressurized not to take action against them,'' he rued.

The minister sought the House's support in dealing with such people, with the main Opposition party Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) affirming its complete support in the issue.

On the number of rhinos poached in the state, Mr Hussain said 72 rhinos were poached between 2001-08, while 143 poachers were arrested during the period. Besides, 10 tigers and 13 elephants were poached during the same period. As per animal population census in 2002, the state had 2006 rhinos, 264 tigers and 5246 elephants, the minister informed.

He further said the total area of the Kaziranga National Park had gone up from 430 sq km to 858 sq km, with over 500 forest officials guarding and maintaining it.

Of the total 26,748 sq km forest area in the state, 3,30,000 hectares had been encroached, with the government taking up various steps to evict as well as rehabilitate the encroachers, the minister said.

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