SHILLONG, July 27 – The 42 wagons loaded with timber seized in Guwahati this month is part of a 118 wagon loads of timber consignment from Dimapur railway station heading to New Delhi, sources said.
If the price of timber of the 42 wagons seized by Customs authorities on July 10 in Guwahati is estimated at Rs 80 crore, it’s anybody’s guess what would be the price of the other 76 wagons loaded with teak and pine.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) which oversees the transportation of timber from the Northeast has given permission to the Nagaland Forest department for transportation of 118 wagons of timber through an order.
A copy of the SIT order,
8-15/SIT/2006-ptXXV dated June 11, 2010 which is available with The Assam Tribune states the “permission granted by the SIT for loading of 118 wagons for transportation of sawn timber and molding beats from Dimapur loading station for the quarter March-May 2010 is herby extended up to July 10, 2010 on the same term and condition.”
The order was signed by SIT member-secretary MK Jiwrajka in New Delhi.
Sources said the 42 wagons seized by the Customs was one of the three components of this 118-wagon consignment.
“To fill a wagon with sawn timber needs quite a number of trees. To fill 118 wagons one can only guess how many trees were pulled down,” the sources said.
With such transportation of timber on from Nagaland for years now, it’s unclear from where these timbers come from, but fingers are being pointed to Myanmar.
It’s believed that logs are illegally shipped from Myanmar, Kamjong and Moreh to Dimapur, which are transported to feed India’s timber industry.
Incidentally, the Supreme Court banned timber felling in 1996. Two years later in the TN Godavaran case, the apex court passed another judgment allowing already felled timber to be transported only by the Railways under strict supervision and guidelines.
To do so, the apex court ordered setting up of a High Powered Committee (HPC) and SIT for supervision of the transportation and overseeing forest protection in the region.
The court also ordered setting up of satellite cell of the Ministry of Environment and Forest, also known as the Office of Regional Chief Conservator of Forest (RCCF), here in Shillong.
Timbers for transportation must be marked, have transit pass and other HPC guidelines and cleared by SIT and a host of State forest departments and the sources of the area where the timber was obtained from must be clear. The Railways must send copy of such transportation to these State and Central forest agencies for re-evaluation.
“It’s not clear what’s going on. For example SIT was supposed to have its office in Guwahati, why it’s in New Delhi can’t be said.
“Moreover, SIT has been insisting that the seized consignment should be checked in New Delhi and not in Guwahati,” the sources said.