Timber smuggling continues in Manipur

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Ukhrul (Manipur), May 12 (ANI): Illegal cutting and smuggling of timber continued with impunity in Manipur's Ukhrul District, despite a Central court ban on felling of trees.

Little is known about timber smuggling along the porous Indo-Myanmar border.

In April 1995, India and Myanmar signed their first cross-border trade agreement. However, this agreement does not include timber. Officially, all timber exports have to pass via Yangon, but in reality, an illegal timber trade is flourishing between Manipur in India and Kachin state and Sagaing division in Myanmar.

The 1995 trade agreement includes provisions to upgrade roads connecting major trading towns in Myanmar to the Indian border. Once these roads are improved, cross-border trade could expand significantly given India's growing demand for timber.

However, inspite of the intervention of the State Government to stop the ongoing illegal timber trade in Kamjong of Ukhrul district and Moreh of Chandel district and in other porous Indo-Myanmar border, the illegal timber trade poses a serious threat to the ecological balance of the area now.

These timber logs are shipped from Myanmar, Kamjong, Moreh to major plywood factory at Dimapur in Nagaland, defying the law.

"There are many checkpoints. We are checked and frisked at police gate and forest gate. Since we have officials permit, we proceed further after negotiating with them," said Prem Kasang, who once worked as a timber logger.

According to reports, smugglers have been felling valuable trees like teak with impunity and remnants of burnt hill slopes as well as cut off woods can be seen lying scattered everywhere.

As informed by the District Forest Officer (DFO), Ukhrul District, in the past two years, they have seized more than 70 cubic metre of timber under seven or eight forest offence cases.

"Such complaints or allegations have come from some quarters. We have looked into the matter. My staffs including myself rest to this post. Since Manipur-Myanmar border is quite porous, I cannot rule out completely that there is no smuggling of timber. There might have been some instances of smuggling of timbers," said L Joykumar Singh, District Forest Officer (DFO), Ukhrul District.

Singh also mentioned that they were unable to prevent the illegal timber trade in the area due to lack of adequate manpower and poor law and order in the state.

Timber is being smuggled at an alarming pace to feed a global wood-processing industry.

According to the State of Forest Report 2001, by Forest Survey of India, Dehradun, the forest cover of Manipur was 16,926 square kilometres, which was 75.81 per cent of the total geographical area of the state as against 17,384 square kilometres in 1999. By L C K Singh (ANI)

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