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Forest division proposes shifting saw mills

FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT

Itagar, January 5: The forest division here in East Siang has proposed shifting all band–saw mills in the district to their respective notified industrial zones, in order to facilitate effective monitoring and do away with illegal timbering activities.

The taskforce checking forest illegalities, headed by the EAC (dev), has urged the industries department to have band–saw mills shifted to the notified industrial estates (IE) in Niglog, Pasighat, and Mebo.

"The locations of the band–saw mills – in nooks and corners, some even on private residential compounds – makes it difficult for the forest department to monitor their activities," divisiol forest officer Tabang Jamoh said.

Several unregulated and unrestricted band–saw mills have been established across the district. However, despite the matter having been taken up with the administration on various occasions, the industries department, which issues trading licenses for such sawmills, has not taken any concrete steps to shift the mills to the IEs, Jamoh said.

Illegal timber operation is still prevalent in Aruchal Pradesh under the guise of furniture–based industries like band–saw mills. The forests & environment department has failed to check and regulate the operation which poses a threat to the rich biodiversity of this Himalayan state. Illegal timber business continues to flourish under the patroge of timber smugglers, band–saw mill operators, political leaders, and even forest department officials.

The band–saw mills, which are supposed to saw only furniture items after acquiring sawn timber from legal sawmills, are sawing round logs just like any big sawmill. Because of the huge demand for round timber, timber smugglers are now felling virgin trees in interior areas, using equipments like JCB earth movers. And when some honest forest officers try to check the illegalities, they face pressure from political bigwigs and are threatened with postings to far–flung locations as punishment. The sincerity of some of the forest officials is also being questioned, and there is suspicion that they may be in nexus with local illegal timber operators. It is interesting that whenever any mobile squad from the CCF and the task force conducts raids on band–saw mills, they find the mills devoid of round logs and trolleys – even though the raids were carried out on receiving reliable information that illegal logs were being sawn at the mills. The reason for this, it is suspected, is that prior information is passed on to the illegal timber operators by staffers or officials of the department itself. The situation is reportedly the same in msai and other parts of the state where timber mafias are active. It is a big challenge before the GoAP to contain such illegalities. While Chief Minister bam Tuki is proposing to raise the state’s forest cover to 90%, it is doubtful whether his vision will take shape under the prevailing scerio. However, in East Siang, the shifting of the existing and mushrooming band–saw mills to notified IEs would certainly reduce the scale of illegal timber operation. It remains to be seen if the owners of these band–saw mills will be all too willing to cooperate, or if the whole plan will remain on paper because of political intervention.

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Ankur Kalita

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