Assam villagers complain of illegal felling of trees

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Guwahati, May 16 (ANI): Villagers in Assam claim that forest mafia groups in Guwahati, in connivance with the State forest officials, are felling trees to sell wood in the timber market.

Illegal felling of valuable trees in Garbhanga Reserve Forest, in the Kamrup District of the state poses grave threat to the forest reserve.

Interacting with media, a villager, on condition of anonymity, said that forest mafia bribes forest officials to smuggle wood.

The Garbhanga Reserve Forest falls in the bordering Ri Bhoi District of Meghalaya, and smugglers often cross over from the Meghalaya side to the Garbhanga Reserve forest.

"There has been a lot of felling here. The forest officials take money and that is the reason the smugglers get the opportunity. The smugglers come from the Meghalaya side. They belong to Khasi and Nepali community," a villager said.

Villagers also said that there are around 20 to 25 sawmills inside Meghalaya, bordering Garbhanga Forest where the logs are being sawed after being smuggled from the Assam side.

On the other hand, State Forest Minister Rokibul Hussain, said often wood is cut for domestic use , which is also considered illegal.

"Sometimes what happens is that people take wood for domestic purposes, and many people assume that it is illegal. Now for forestland purpose, after all legal procedures done by the officials, the felling of trees is taking place in Amsang. It is genuine. I also don't say that illegal felling of wood is not taking place," Hussain said.

He added that officers involved in it would be strictly punished.

It is estimated that in the last six years, around 40 percent reserve forest trees have been felled according to non-government sources.

The Supreme Court banned the movement of timber from northeastern India to other states in 1997 to discourage deforestation.

Large-scale timber smuggling is fast depleting the reserves and playing havoc with the ecosystem. (ANI)

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