GUWAHATI, Dec 6 - Assam has the highest number of incidents of environment-related offences among all north-eastern states, and it also figures among the top five states across the country in this regard.
As per latest data in the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the State recorded a total of 149 environment-related offences during 2016.
Of the total, 67 were cases registered under the Forest Act, 1927, while as many as 82 were under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
However, no cases were reported last year in the State under other laws like the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 or those relating to air and water pollution.
The total number of cases in Assam in 2016 had gone up on an annual basis as compared to 2015 when the State had reported 105 incidents of environmental related offences.
Across the country, there were altogether 4,732 incidents of environment-related offences during 2016. Assam recorded the fifth highest number of such offences among all the states and union territories.
Uttar Pradesh with 2,130 incidents of environment-related offences was at the top of the table, followed by Rajasthan with 1,381.
There were 178 such incidents each in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh and 170 in Maharashtra.
However, except for Assam, the other north-eastern states reported either none or very few such incidents.
NCRB data show that the total environment-related offences during 2016 in Nagaland were three, while in Manipur there were two such incidents, and in Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh only one each. Meghalaya and Tripura did not report any such incidents last year.
A total of 248 persons were arrested in Assam for environment-related offences during 2016, while 110 were charge-sheeted. Nationwide, 8,387 were arrested for environment-related offences last year.
Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, secretary general and CEO of well-known biodiversity conservation NGO Aaranyak, told The Assam Tribune that the government must give priority on ensuring conviction of offenders.
“Merely taking an alleged offender into custody is not enough. Cases must be framed and presented before the Judiciary in a proper manner. The Judiciary is already active as far as environment-related offences are concerned and even fast-track courts have been set up. The shortcoming is with the law enforcement agencies and so the conviction rate for environment-related offences remain very low,” he said.
He said that many people engaged in poaching or such activities are repeated offenders.
“When it comes to environment-related offences, the enforcement agencies do not show the same kind of urgency or seriousness as they do in case of other crimes. So the fear psychosis among the offenders is missing and that acts as a dampener in the entire policing effort. The government must review all such cases in a time-bound manner to ensure that officials entrusted with the task of preparing cases are working in a time-bound manner,” said the noted environmentalist, adding that the issue of alleged nexus between government officials and offenders should also be probed.