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Concern voiced over plunder of forest resources in Sonitpur dist
SHAMBHU BORO

Women engaged by unscrupulous elements, illegally excavating sand and gravel from the Panchnoi riverbed. – Photo: Tezpur Correspondent
 TEZPUR, Jan 19 - At a time when the State Forest Department here, led by DFO Ranjit Konwar and buttressed by a dedicated team of forest staff have been toiling to materialise a number of government schemes, including special measure for checking the ever-increasing man-elephant conflict, reforestation in the degraded areas, collection of revenue through systematic allotment of quarries etc., however on the contrary, illegal quarrying of sand and gravel from Panchnoi river near Hograjuli area under Sonai-Rupai Sanctuary by some people of Panchnoi area under Kolamati Beat Forest Office in nexus with some unscrupulous forest officers under Amaribari Range is drawing the attention of the nature lovers and socially conscious section of society in recent times.

During a brief visit to the area, the local people, who are always vocal on the issue of saving forest resources, including wildlife, expressed grave concern over the unabated illegal activities carried out on the dwindling forest resources.

They informed this Correspondent that the Sonai-Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary located along the foothills of the Himalayas in Sonitpur district covers approximately 200 sq kms and offers a splendid view of wildlife for the visiting tourists.

Unfortunately, forest denizens like tigers, lesser cats, elephants, gaur, barking deer and hog deer, including many species of flora, fauna and fish are gradually being pushed to the edge, and probably extinction, in the near future.

A teacher of the area, who did not want to be named, strongly opposed the on-going destruction of forest resources like illegal excavation of sand and gravel from Panchnoi river.

On the brighter side, they mentioned that there are still many honest officials working in the Forest Department. However, due to the presence of some influential but dishonest people in the department, particularly under the Amaribari Forest Range, who are intent on amassing extra bucks on the sly through unlawful activities with the help of certain brokers and some so-called RTI activists, a trend of earning easy money by destroying forest resources with impunity has been established among a section of the mostly poor but simple people of the area.

“Apart from wildlife, the place is also home to rich floral and faunal species, besides exotic birds, which can definitely be a tourist magnet. But due to severe negligence and lack of foresight of the

The condition of the surface communication network too is still in an abysmal state. The nature-lover therefore urged the district forest officer of Sonitpur to initiative necessary steps for improving the road network.

While talking to this Correspondent later, Sonitpur DFO Ranjit Konwar claimed that he would never allow any illegal act to take place under his jurisdiction. Recalling certain positive action that was taken up after his posting to Sonitpur district, he highlighted that for checking the alarming rate of man-elephant conflict and for saving the lumbering grey giants with the support of various NGOs, district administration and some nature lovers, a major initiative for conserving the traditional elephant corridors has been executed.

“I have noticed in many rural pockets and tea garden areas that erection of electric fencing in recent times is dwindling, which had all along posed a serious threat to the highly mobile wild elephants that often come out from the forests in search of fodder. I have already written to the higher authority of the State Power Department for immediate rectification of such avoidable faults in order to check unwarranted electrocution of wild elephants.”

In comparison to other places of the state, wild elephant-related menace is gradually decreasing in the district due to certain measure taken up by the Forest Department. He mentioned that apart from forest guards and the concerned officials, a sizable number of people from various walk of life, including honorary wildlife warden Saurav Barkataki have been selflessly trying to minimise the avoidable man-elephant conflicts.

“For motivating the people concerned, including a good number of village headmen, we recently provided torchlights and jackets for guarding the village periphery during the chilly winter nights from the menace of wild animals,” Ranjit Konwar said, adding, “we are optimistic that very soon we would succeed in ameliorating the plight of the fringe area villagers from occasional exploits by the denizens of the forest.”

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