Environmentalists and nature lovers have expressed serious concern over the increasing instances of timber smuggling through the ‘man-made forest ‘ at Bhairabkundain Udalguri, thereby damaging valuable trees.
The forest created by the Dhansiri- Sikaridanga Joint Forest Management Committee (JFMC), is endowed with more than ten lakhs trees of different species stretched over 4500 bighas of land on the Assam and Arunachal foothills.
A group of sixty youths has been planting trees since 2014 to transform the once barren rocky land into the lush green forest that it is now.
The youths have planted nearly twelve lakhs saplings in the forest area so far.
This man-made forest has become the target of smugglers engaged in inter-state timber smuggling activities.
“Smugglers use our forest as an alternative route to smuggle out timber when they couldn’t take their regular routes in fear of wild elephants,” said Pralay Daimary, president of the JFMC .
“They set fire to trees in our forest when our members pose a threat to their illegal activities,” he said.
A group of smugglers had reportedly tried to set fire to the forest on the south of the Maibra camp last week, damaging nearly three thousand semi-matured trees.
Tata Daimary, JMFC assistant secretary said, “A herd of wild elephants regularly visit our forest as they are very much fond of the fresh Khoira trees and we take care to ensure that this does not harm the forest in any manner.”
“The manner in which the timber smugglers enter our forest and damage a large number of valuable trees by setting fire to them has become a major cause of concern,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jayanta Kumar Das, honorary wildlife warden of Udalguri recently visited the site to take stock of the situation.
Condemning the incident Das said, “I am pained to see the way miscreants have damaged the forest which has become a natural habitat of wild elephants, thus contributing towards mitigating man-elephant conflict.
Das has also appealed to the Udalguri deputy commissioner and his counterpart in the West Kameng district of bordering Arunachal Pradesh to take strict action against the unabated illegal felling of trees along the Assam-Arunachal border.