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Arunachal, Assam to curb illegal logging: Minister

The Forest and Environment Minister said the reports of illegal felling of trees and transportation of illegal logs were reported in 2017-18 in the Deomali area of Tirap district bordering Assam.

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Itanagar: Arunachal Pradesh Environment and Forests Department will soon convene a joint meeting with its counterpart in neighbouring Assam to work out strategies to curb the rampant illegal felling of trees by timber mafias along the inter-state boundary areas, Minister Mama Natung informed the Assembly on Tuesday.

Responding to a ‘zero hour’ discussion initiated by senior Congress member Wanglin Lowangdong, the Forest and Environment Minister said the reports of illegal felling of trees and transportation of illegal logs were reported in 2017-18 in the Deomali area of Tirap district bordering Assam.

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“Wherever cases of illegal logging and illegal timber operation come to the fore, seizures are made, cases registered and actions taken against the culprits,” he informed, adding that 898 illegal logs, equivalent to 544 cubic meters, were seized in the Deomali area in January.

“As per a recent report by DFO, Deomali, the Task Force constituted as per the order of CCF dated 28.10.2020 has been working day and night, doing patrolling in most vulnerable areas of Namsang, Mopaya and Borduria. As a preventive measure, all the entry and exit points of the area were blocked by digging trenches and labour camps have been destroyed,” the Minister informed the House. Natung, however, said that the department alone cannot stop the illegal timber operations.

“The people should extend cooperation to the department to save Mother Nature,” he said. The Minister also appealed to the members to create awareness among the people of their respective constituencies and tell them to surrender air guns, hand sawing machines voluntarily to save the wildlife and the forest. He said that operations of around eight wood-based industries located in the area have been suspended so as to check the illegal timber trade.

Earlier raising the matter, senior Congress member Wanglin Lowangdong claimed that illegal felling of trees in Deomali Forest Division is “going on in a very drastic momentum”.

Illegal logging is a global problem with significant negative socio-economic impacts. In economic terms, illegal logging results in loss of revenue and other benefits, and in environmental terms, it’s associated with deforestation, climate change and loss of biodiversity, he said.

From 2001 to 2020, Arunachal has lost 222,000 hectares of forest cover, equivalent to a 3.5 percent decrease in tree cover, he said, while adding that the state is one of the top five regions of the country as far as tree cover loss is concerned. Deomali saw massive illegal felling of trees in the wildlife and reserve forest area. From April 8, 2021 to January 4, 2022, 125 logs, equivalent to 82.734 cubic meters worth over Rs 8 lakh were seized. From January 11 to 16, 898 logs equivalent to 506.434 cubic meters worth over Rs 41 lakh were seized.

During the aforesaid period, a total of 1022 logs equivalent to 589.168 cubic meters, amounting to Rs 50.17 lakh, were seized from the Deomali forest division areas alone.

To prevent illegal logging and timber smuggling, he suggested the government allow only GPS-fitted trucks for the movement of logs and to meet manpower shortage by engaging the retired security forces personnel. “We have to preserve our forest, our heritage for posterity,” he said. 

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