Following strict orders from both the State government and the BTC administration, a joint eviction drive was launched by the DFOs of both Kokrajhar and Chirang on Friday to make the Ripu –Chirang Reserve Forest encroachment free.
According to official sources, a total of 16000 people of 2000 households have been freshly residing at Gwmwtao, No 1 Lwkiguri, No 2 Lwkiguri in Ripu -Chirang Reserve Forest besides several other villagers have settled in Dolpani area under Runikhata Forest range in Chirang forest division by illegally encroaching forest land..
The eviction drive was carried out in the presence of Raju Brahma, Chirang DFO, Kamleswar Brahma, Kokrajhar Huntugaon DFO, rangers, forest staff, officials in cooperation with locals.
The Chirang Forest Division and Kokrajhar Hultugaon Forest Division, Chirang Police, NGOs and locals jointly carried out the eviction drive at the fresh illegal encroachment areas in Gwmwtao, No 1 Lwkiguri, No 2 Lwkiguri and in the newly set up villages of Dolpani block area under Runikhata forest range in Chirang district.
Majority of the people have come from Dhekiajuli, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh and have started encroachment in areas under Chirang District Forest Division.
Talking to Northeast Now, Raju Brahma, DFO, Chirang Forest Division said, “We jointly carried out the eviction drive. The eviction drive was carried out by the Kokrajhar Hultugaon Forest Division staff, Chirang Forest Division staff, Chirang Police, NGOs and locals for the second time. The first eviction drive was conducted on October 5.”
Brahma said that more than 175 hectares of land were made encroachment free and 150 houses were destroyed by using a JCB, forest staff, labourers and locals at Gwmwtao, No 1 Lwkiguri , No 2 Lwkiguri under Runikhata forest range in Chirang district.
He also said that Dolpani block areas fall in Ultapani range under Kokrajhar Hultugaon Forest Division but recently the BTC through an official notification in April, brought Dolpani under Kungring Forest Beat in Runikhata forest range under Chirang Forest Division and here more than 2000 to 3000 hectares of forest land have been illegally encroached.
Brahma also said that the illegal encroachers are involved in acts like poaching, cutting Sal trees, destroying dense jungles, etc.
DFO, Kokrajhar Hultugaon Forest Range Division, Kamleswar Brahma said both the BTC and Assam Government have ordered the Forest Department to carry out eviction against fresh illegal encroachments in forest land and recover government land from encroachers.
“So as per the order from the government, we have jointly carried out the operation against illegal encroachments at Ripu-Chirang Reserve Forest in the areas of Dolpani. In Dolpani areas, illegal encroachment has been taking place and we have destroyed houses, huts, paddy, vegetables by using a JCB, labourers, forest staff and public today and the eviction drive will continue after Durga Puja festival also,” he added.
He also said, “Ripu-Chirang Reserve Forest is the Manas buffer zone for wild animals, elephants, butterflies, deer and golden langurs, leopard, birds etc., so we have to provide safeguard to animals.”
According to the data available with the Forest Department in BTC, a total of 39,750.86 hectares of land were under encroachment. About 2,385.14 hectares under Kachugaon forest division, 4,262.7 hectares in Dhansiri division, 8,894.21 hectares in Chirang division, 3,332.8 hectares in Porbotjhora division and 6,337.6 hectares in Baksa forest division were under encroachment.
The Haltugaon division of Kokrajhar district has the highest encroachment of forestland with 14,538.41 hectares of land have been encroached upon.