Forest Minister admitts theft of forest produces

 From Mayukh Goswami

Mangaldai : Minister for Environment and Forest, Parimal Suklabaidya has admitted theft of forest produces and illegal mining of  mining sand. He emphasized on the need of strengthening vigilance mechanism of the department to check the thefts. “There are reports of theft of sand. We used to take actions to stop such illegal practices. Still there is allegations of such practices being going on . So we need to strengthen our vigilance. We have also discussed to allot additional sand quaries in the district as per requirement”, said Minister Suklabaidya.He was talking to media sidelining a departmental review meeting at the OrangNational Park’s auditorium in the afternoon of June 14 last.

Reviewing the various issues related to the forest department and the National Park at the meeting with senior officials of the forest departments including DFO , Mangaldai Wild Life Division responsible for the Park, Minister Suklabaidya asked the officials to explore every possible avenue to build environment friendly infrastructure to catch tourists flow to the Park. “To attract tourists, amenities have to be created, including accommodation by the Forest department itself in the nearby areas as there is no buffer areas of the Park and no structures can be created in the core areas ” he said, adding that the park with rich flora and fauna would be able to draw tourists in hordes. The meeting mulled plans to set up eco friendly pre-fabricated guest house in the land that have come up at the contact point of Dhansiri river on the western side of the park. In this context, Suklabaidya asked the DFO and the Darrang social forestry division to go in for plantation in the new buffer areas that have been added to the park. The Minister reiterated his earlier stand to take up the matter with ATDC for setting up guest houses for tourists in and around the park since the ATDC owned Prashanti tourists lodge has been lying abandoned for the last four years .

 The issue of encroachment also figured in the meeting. DFO , Mangaldai Wild Life Division Sandeep Kumar apprised the minister that 15 to 20 families have been served notices to vacate the Park land and they would move out shortly. Regarding the poor condition of a bridge inside the Park, Kumar said that the tender process will be completed soon. The Minister while appreciating the initiative to set up anti-poaching camps with towers asked the DFO Kumar to ensure that no poaching takes place in the national park. Presently, there are 40 anti poaching camps with eight watch towers covering an area of 79.28 sq km. Suklabaidya also reviewed the preparedness of the park authorities to deal with impending floods. He asked them to be in vigil and to rescue the wild animals from flood water.

DFO Kumar informed that 50 per cent of the park consists of highlands, most of the animals take shelter there and the number of casualty is less. Two speed boats, two motorised boats and 30 country boats are ready to be pressed into rescue operation of wildlife during flood time. The meeting was also attended by CCF, Central Assam Range Hemkanta Talukdar and forest officials of Darrang and neighbouring Sonitpur district. Meanwhile talking to this correspondent CCF, Talukdar said that the Mangaldai Beat office under NK Territorial Division would be upgraded to Range office . The present Beat office once happened to be the DFO , Managldai Territorial office .

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