NGT directs Arunachal to take action against illegal logging
By Arunachaltimes 03-Sep-2019
The direction came after the tribunal heard a case of illegal logging being carried out in Papum forest under the Khellong forest division, filed by Jorjo Tana Tara, a resident of Seijosa in Pakke-Kessang district.
The lone ranger: Jorjo Tana Tara
Stating that there are serious environmental questions in the case, the NGT has directed the state to take appropriate action to identify the “hotspots” where illegal felling of trees and deforestation are taking place. The NGT has directed the government to constitute a high-level committee headed by the chief secretary to put into action the direction of the tribunal, and to ensure that the committee meets within a month.
The tribunal consists of Justice SP Wangdi and expert member Dr Satyawan Singh Garbyal, and the respondents are the Arunachal Pradesh government, the principal chief conservator of forests, the additional principal chief conservator of forests, the Khellong division DFO, and the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
The NGT further said that the strength of the forest personnel at all levels should be enhanced, considering the size of the huge tract of forest land that plays the role of a carbon sink and is considered the lungs of the country. It also called for ensuring effective enforcement of the forest laws, and protection of the rich forest resources.
Tara had gone to the NGT in April this year, seeking an end to the indiscriminate logging inside the Papum reserved forest, adjacent to the Pakke Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Pakke-Kessang.
As reported earlier by this daily, there has been large-scale logging activities inside the Papum reserved forest for the last couple of years, which forced Tara to seek the intervention of the NGT, after his complaints to the local forest authorities did not yield effective results.
Dept admits to logging inside reserved forest
After receiving Tara’s petition, the NGT had sought a report from the Khellong forest division DFO and the PTR director. In their report to the tribunal, they admitted that illicit felling of trees was continuing in the Khellong forest division “but not to the extent as has been projected.”
Based on the report of the forest officers, the NGT said regular patrolling is being carried out in the area by the Seijosa forest range officer, along with a mobile squad, the Special Tiger Protection Force and police personnel, “because of which illegal felling has been controlled to a large extent.”
However, those on the field say that some facts may have been omitted in the report submitted to the NGT as trucks carrying logs ply on the road just near the Lower Seijosa forest check gate, reflecting the inability and reluctance of the forest department to control illegal logging. If the forest department is not involved, it should have taken strong steps to stop logging, they said.
Tara had earlier written to the forest department to install a CCTV camera at the Lower Seijosa forest check gate, by way of which logs are transported.
“It has stopped working,” he said.
Illegally felled logs are also transported through the Pakke river.
The NGT has taken note of the limited staff in the range office which has made it difficult to effectively deal with illegal logging.
The tribunal said there are “the mafia and miscreants involved in the illegal timber trade.”
Tara agreed with the NGT that there is an Assam-based timber mafia operating in the area with the help of locals. He, however, said the report that had been sent to the NGT did not reflect the whole truth.
“There are many forest ranges under the Khellong division. If they work together, it can be stopped,” he said.
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