As the Assamese month of Phagun sets in with social media abuzz with colourful photos of beautiful Simalu trees, no effort of its conservation is being seen.
There have been reports of unabated felling of this exotic tree in reserve forests of Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Majuli districts along with the riverine areas off the Brahmaputra and the Subansiri.
Simalu trees are continuously targeted by illegal timber dealers and are being transported without any check by the forest and police departments of these districts.
The trees are allegedly being felled illegally by timber smugglers across these riverine areas in Assam’s Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Majuli districts.
Locals allege that there has been a spurt in illegal felling of Simalu trees in the riverine areas of Subansiri, Dikrong in Lakhimpur, Jiyadhal, Gainadi and Simenchapori in Dhemaji.
This is also a well-known fact that the timbers and logs are transferred or smuggled through inland river ways.
The river isles and sandbars of the Subansiri and other rivers of this region have witnessed mushrooming of illegal sawmills where Simalu trees, felled in nearby areas, are being cut into different forms and sizes before being transported at night to various timber depots in Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Majuli.
“The trees are felled with the help of chainsaw bars in river isles and then are carried to illegal sawmills in tractors to be cut into pieces before being supplied to North Lakhimpur to the north and Majuli to the south on boats at night,” said a local.
Such incidents are happening in Gereki, Bhekeli, Hatiemora, Dorge, Gossain Chapori, Acharkota, Lohit-Khabolu, East Telahi, Ghunasuti and Daflakata areas off the river Subansiri in Lakhimpur district.
Inland waterway ghats like Eserakata, Khabolu, Borghat, Na-Ali, Somdirimukh are witnessing transportation of thousand cubic feet of timber of Simalu trees in these riverine areas every night to the urban areas.
In riverine areas in Dhemaji district like Tapit, Karmi Pathar, Pipaliguri, Dambuk, Namgharia have seen a spurt in illegal felling and smuggling of Simalu trees.
Reserve forests like Jiyadhal, Jamjing, Senga, Simen, Gali and Sisi have also been witnessing indiscriminate felling of trees by timber smugglers.
Felling of Simalu trees is being reported from Poba reserve forest, which has the potentiality of becoming a rainforest.
All these are taking place unbeatably despite the presence of the district forest department and other law-enforcing agencies, alleged locals.
Simalu, an indigenous tree that grows in riverine areas, helps in the conservation of soil and plays a crucial role against flood and bank erosion.
The indiscriminate felling of Simalu trees in the riverine areas of the three districts have increased the intensity of bank erosion caused by various rivers.
The felling and uprooting of these indigenous trees has made the river banks more vulnerable to erosion leaving the rivers to move in diverse directions.
Another exotic tree from the same family – Palash – is also fast becoming extinct in this blooming season due to the same reason.
This colourful tree is a vital part of Assamese culture and its extinction could erase this culture.
The Simalu trees are natural nesting place for various birds like greater adjutant stork (leptoptilos dubius) and other avian species like vultures.
The indiscriminate felling of this tree has also disturbed the natural habitation of these birds threatening an ecological disaster in the entire region.
Earlier in 2015, hundreds of Simalu trees were felled to widen the PWD road from Gogamukh to Dhakuwakhona in Lakhimpur district which also affected the natural habitation of these birds.
The conservationists are of the opinion that mass plantation of this tree in riverine areas, reserve forests, fields, grazing, school and office premises and on roadsides should be initiated to maintain the ecology as well as for flood and erosion management.