Reserve forest in Meghalaya turns into grassland as smugglers wreak havoc
A reserve forest in North Garo Hills (NGH) has turned into a grassland after timber smugglers wreaked havoc, leaving almost nothing within.
The Chimabangsi Reserve Forest was once the pride of the local populace, with the forest cover being so thick that people feared entering it.
However, the current sight has left environmentalists in deep shock as, according to them, this is an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen.
The state reserve forest, which is about 2,200 hectares, now faces the harsh possibility of being denuded and encroached by locals who have reportedly occupied close to 400-500 hectares of the reserve.
The Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of North and East Garo Hills, Satish Kumar, said that locals and Nokmas have claimed ownership of the land belonging to the Forest Department and have been cutting down trees in the area.
“We are fighting to save these lands,” he said.
The DFO further narrated his ordeal when he visited the Chimabangsi forest, stating it pained him to see the situation.
“We are catching timber trucks daily, and these are being seized. However, local miscreants, along with smugglers, have continued to defy authorities and pleas to stop the felling of trees from the reserve. The situation is hopeless,” said Satish.
As of now, the 2,200-hectare forest wears the look of a grassland. The forest was earlier filled with high-value sal and teak trees that caught the eyes of timer smugglers and locals alike.
Further, the proximity of Assam, where most of the illegal timber lands up, is another reason for the loss of forest cover.
“You can see over 50-60 seized timber trucks in the Dainadubi Range office, which is an indicator that the forest department is trying its best. However, with there being over 3-4 routes through which the illegal timber goes through, it becomes humanly impossible to check the outflow,” added the DFO.
The situation, according to the DFO, would likely worsen before it gets any better.
“We are looking to reforest the reserve and, it has become critical to reclaim the illegally occupied land from those that are claiming the reserve lands. The forest can return but, there has to be a more concerted effort from all parties to make that happen,” added Satish.
Some locals felt that the department needed to act fast to stop the trend of timber smuggling.
“These areas, even a year ago, had hundreds of more trees than it has today, which is a shame. The days are getting hotter because of the loss of forest cove. Everyone feels it except for the greedy smugglers along with some local miscreants who have taken the destruction of the reserve as their sole aim in life,” said a local from Dainadubi.
(Edited by Ibankyntiew Mawrie)