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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Assam Tribune :TE obstructs elephant corridor violating forest laws

TE obstructs elehant corridor violating forest laws
Sivasish Thakur
SAMRANG (UDALGURI), Dec 25 – Consider this – a pristine elephant corridor well inside notified forest land stands obstructed by a recently-set up tea garden and other permanent structures. And it no longer merits surprise why many parts of Udalguri district bordering Bhutan remain at the centre of a raging man-elephant conflict.

In what exemplifies brazen violation of forest laws, the traditional elephant corridor falling inside Neoli proposed reserve forest (PRF) on the Bhutan border today serves little purpose following allotment of 60 hectares (450 bighas) of prime forest land to an organisation by the government authorities themselves.

The corridor – extremely crucial for unhindered elephant movement – links the famed Barnadi wildlife sanctuary with Kahlingduwar reserve forest, and also forms part of Manas Tiger Reserve and Ripu-Chirang Elephant Reserve.

A direct fallout of the subversion of the law by the government authorities in Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) has been a spurt in the man-elephant conflict in nearby areas, taking a heavy toll on either side.

The area inside Neoli PRF was allotted to Brahma Sewa Ashram by the then circle officer, Harisinga revenue circle, showing it as ‘suklabagan non-cadastral area’ against allotment order No. BTC/LR-143/2005/355 dated 10.9.2008, undermining the PRF gazette notification.

After a physical spot verification by the Dhansiri Forest Division, it was confirmed that the land was transferred to the organisation in gross violation of the law, and the matter was brought to the notice of the Council Head of Department, Forests, BTC, on February 9, 2010. Regrettably, no positive action followed till date.

During verification, it was also found that the firm had set up a sprawling tea garden and some other cash crop plantation besides doing construction activities. The then Deputy Commissioner of Udalguri, Meenakshi Sundaram, also took serious note of the disturbing developments involving massive forest clearance, establishment of tourist structure, extensive tea plantation and commercial crop cultivation, setting up of a huge dairy farm, etc., and called for immediate clearance of all the encroachments.

Forest sources said that the department had sought restoration of the PRF status to the encroached land. “The matter now rests with the BTC authorities and the sooner we get back the land the better it would be for long-term conservation prospects of the entire Barnadi-Neoli-Khalingduar complex. The corridor is crucial for Manas Tiger Reserve and Ripu-Chirang Elephant Reserve as well,” a forest official said.

The developments also violate the Supreme Court order concerning clearance of forest land which lays down very stringent norms for clearance of forestland even when falling outside reserve forests.

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