Jayanta Kumar Das
KALAIGAON, Nov 23 – In a major breakthrough, Forest Department and SSB personnel busted a timber racket along the India-Bhutan international border at Kharmati on November 22 and arrested five smugglers along with tools of the trade and other material.
Illegal tree felling and massive encroachment have caused rapid deforestation in Udalguri district along the India-Bhutan international border resulting in frequent cases of the so-called ‘man-elephant conflict’. So far, 25 people and seven wild elephants have died this year in the district. Unabated felling of valuable trees in and around Nonai forest in Khalingduar Reserve Forest has virtually converted this forest into a desert.
Equipped with portable power saws and moving around in bicycles, a number of people have been felling trees and smuggling the timber out via Bormukali for decades, thus destroying nearly 90 percent of the green cover on the Indian side.
It is alleged that the anti-social elements have been enjoying patronage from a section of politicians and extremist groups.
Supported by SSB, a forest team guided by Satya Ram Boro, Range Officer of Nonai Range Office under Dhansiri Forest Division launched an operation on November 22.
The joint team busted two illegal saw mill sites at Kharmati and arrested five people, namely Achintya Basumatari, Siba Narzari, Pradip Basumatari, Sanjeeb Narzari and Pankaj Soren. Two power saw sets and 12 bicycles were also seized during the operation.
Dipen Boro, adviser of the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU) Udalguri district and members of ‘Elephants on the Line’ - an international NGO working for the mitigation of man-elephant conflict on the Indian side welcomed the move and thanked the SSB and Forest Department profoundly for carrying out the operation.