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In Hot Pursuit of Illegal Timber Traders Operating Along the Assam-Meghalaya Border

Kamrup West forest department’s efforts have resulted in the dismantling of around 35 illegal sawmills.
Indian Masterminds Stories

The forest departments in various districts of Assam have always been on the forefront in catching illegal timber traders. Further efforts are on to bring it down to zero as the illegal felling and selling of timber has been affecting the green cover in the north-eastern state. 

The forest department of Kamrup West district, too, is breathing down the neck of timber smugglers, bringing in new regulations in the issuance of timber licenses and dismantling illegal sawmills in the area.

Kamrup West forest department seizing illegal timber

Credit goes to IFS officer Dimpi Bora, who is the DFO Kamrup West, for joining hands with the local police and the district administration to go after the illegal timber traders. Due to the collective effort of all the departments, there has been a cut down of such illegal activities by an increasing rate in the district.

ILLEGAL TIMBER TRADING

While speaking to Indian Masterminds, IFS officer Dimpi Bora said, “Illegal timber trading has been very much prevalent in our area. Most of the illegal timber come from Meghalaya. There have been instances when trees have been felled in our reserves, as well. Also, many illegal shops or banned sawmills have been operating in the district.”

She added that in the border areas, the main problem is that many times, “the places where these illegal operations take place do not fall in our jurisdiction, due to which, it becomes difficult to take any action against them.” 

Dismantling illegal sawmills

As per the rules, in a timber establishment, only 10-inch mills are permissible. For a larger machine or mill, due permission and licenses are needed. If people are operating it without any permission or license, the business is considered illegal.

Due to the existence of such laws, the illegal traders were taking advantage of the border and operating in areas for decades, where the forest department couldn’t catch up with them. However, this time, IFS officer Bora came up with a different plan and involved the district administration and the district police in the operation.

DISMANTLING ILLEGAL ESTABLISHMENT

At first, the officer targeted the Ranibari area which is located along the Assam-Meghalaya border but falls in the Assam territory. There, the personnel from the forest department, the district police and the district administration dismantled an illegal mill and seized the timber. 

Ms. Bora said, “After two days, we arrested the sawmill owners as well. This sent a strong message to all people who were involved in such illegal activities. Along with that, I also informed DFO Khasi Hills, who is my Meghalayan counterpart, about four other mills which were operating from her jurisdiction.”

Seizing machines used to cut timber

The officer also provided the details and coordinates with the forest officer and the forest department in Meghalaya became alert and dismantled all the four sawmills. 

Apart from these, there are a few mills in the char areas, too, which fall under the jurisdiction of other forest officers. The mill owners were taking advantage of the remoteness of the un-mapped char areas as no officer was able to track them down. However, with the joint efforts of the all the forest officers of different districts, the illegal sawmills are now being dismantled.

STATS

As the operation kicked off last year, the forest department managed to seize 59 timber-related vehicles, 29 illegal timber shops, 99 horse carts, 14 chains saw machines, 63 pump machines, and dismantled 35 sawmills. Apart from this, 356.78 m3 timber was recovered and around 1.12 crore amount realized.

Whereas, in the current year, 2 mills have been dismantled and 22 people arrested. The forest department has also recovered 106.529 m3 of timber which resulted in realizing an amount of 23.67 lakhs.


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