Guwahati, April 19 (IANS): The Assam government has decided to go all out to protect the forest wealth of the State, a State minister said.
The government has decided not only to arm forest guards with sophisticated weapons like AK-47 rifles and SLRs but also instructed all forest officials in each district to ensure immediate closure of all illegal saw mills. "We have done an amendment to the Forest Act. Through this amendment, the forest force is now recognized as a force like the police. So now, all forest staff from frontline staff to the level of Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) will be able to use fire arms to fight poachers and to protect wildlife," said Assam Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain while addressing the senior Assam Forest Officers' meet.
"We have already placed orders for procuring sophisticated arms and ammunition through the State Home Department," he said and added that the wildlife sanctuaries and national parks of Assam will be more secure after the move.
"Again, the closure of illegal saw mills is very important. We have reports that there are many illegal saw mills operating across the state. The government has also decided to reward the officials, who could implement the closure of illegal saw mills. We are also going to take stern action against those officials who do not follow the instructions," said Hussain.
The forest minister also said that the department will also put in efforts to extend the green cover of the state. "We have plans to plant 1.68 lakh saplings in about 11,000 hectares of forest and non-forest lands across the state," said Hussain. The minister also said that the department has been planning to involve NGOs, civil society groups, and schools in the state for wider reach and success of the plantation drive.
"I also appeal to all the forest officials in the state to go very strong against the encroachment in forest lands, government lands and wetlands across the state and clear those as early as possible," he said.