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Felling of 200-year-old nesting tree of adjutant stork leaves wildlife activists fuming

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  28 May 2016 12:00 AM GMT

From a Correspondent

JORHAT, May 27: Repeated calls by the Laokhowa Burhachapori Wildlife Conservation Society (LBCS), a gaon-based NGO, to stop felling trees marked with having nest of the Greater and Lesser Adjutant Stork (Hargila and Bortukula) along the tiol Highway 37 starting from Uriya gaon till Kashori gaon in gaon, has fallen into deaf ears and the felling of a 200-year old Himolu tree (Bombax Ceiba) marked as tree no 67 with a girth of 8 metres and height of 25 metres by the gaon Forest Division to clear way for the construction of four-lane road project of NHIDCL, has left wildlife activists and environmentalists bewildered and shocked.

Of the two species, the Greater Adjutant (Hargila) is the world’s most endangered of stork species and breed only in large and tall trees. This bird is distributed only in Assam and Bihar in India and the Brahmaputra Valley is considered to be the last stronghold of the endangered stork, locally called Hargila, and harbours 80 per cent of the global population of the species. The main problem of the conservation of the bird according to wildlife regulation is mainly because of its breeding in tall nesting trees in colonies and their future depends on the conservation of the trees.

Talking to The Sentinel, ture lover and senior environmentalist and professor Kulen Das and research coorditor Samarjit Ojah of LBCS collectively said, “What can be more depressing than the fact that the forest department of Assam which should have been concerned with those trees already marked as nesting trees of the adjutant stork, in fact facilitated the felling of the tree, thus bringing a catastrophe to the conservation process. Whereas in our earlier meeting with the forest department officials, it was agreed that steps would be taken to suspend removal of trees till the breeding period was over, besides a small re-alignment of the road may be considered to avoid felling of trees marked as having stork nest. We had even attached banners on to the mark trees for easy identification and awareness.”

“But the present DFO Amal Sarma upon pressure from NHIDCL ordered the felling of tree no 67. There is a serious lack of coordition between the general and wildlife section of the gaon Forest Division and certain persons with vested interest and perhaps in nexus with timber mafias, have felled trees, some of which were not even in the scheduled survey report of the road construction. Moreover, the forest department puts the age of the felled tree at 50 years but aged persons of the area have disclosed the tree to be at least 200 years old as was informed to them by their parents,” they added.

DFO Amal Sharma said, “Altogether 5,000 trees are to be felled in the gaon 4 lane section but I had persolly taken interest in the three trees numbering 67, 165 and 360 and had even written to the General Mager, NHIDCL vide letter no B. Tree Felling /2016/172-75 dated 05-01-2016 requesting realignment of road due to nest of Greater Adjutant Stork and presence of eggs and young ones on the trees at NH-37 from Uriagaon to Puronigudam portion. But due to pressure to clear the land as soon as possible, we had to take the decision. In this particular matter, I tried my level best to postpone the felling of the trees by four months keeping in mind the breeding season. And accordingly when I did not get any reply from NHIDCL on the realignment issue, I had to take the decision to fell down the tree. But before that I completely assured and confirmed that there were no greater or lesser adjutant storks, eggs or young ones in the tree.”

Meanwhile, a top official of NHIDCL said, “This is absolutely rubbish. No doubt the forest department keeps writing to us about realignment of some roads that are part of our ongoing project. But let me clear the doubt that the NHIDCL has a pre-approved plan dating back to 2011-12. Our concern is that we must get a total breadth of 60 metres, 30 metres on left and 30 metres on right from the centre. And the process of clearing the land lies with both the district administration under an ADC land acquisition and the DFO of every district forest department. At no point of time can we realign any road, plan of which has already been approved. Guideline is that it is the forest department which should take initiative to shift the trees that are connected with environment and required for ecological balance. We pay for everything but ironically not one proposal for shifting of trees by the forest department is with us. So why should we be bothered about realignment or keep replying to them?”

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