Timber smugglers, poachers, encroachers running amok at biodiversity hotspot
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, July 26: mbor Reserve Forest, a rich biodiversity hotspot and a research destition, is facing a grave threat due to illegal tree felling and smuggling.
Environment activists rue that due to the State government's apathy, smugglers are having a field day at the forest, resulting in fast depletion of its green cover.
"There has been large-scale encroachment and destruction of forests at mbor that has severely affected ecological balance of the area, besides destroying many rare species of wild animals and plants," the Save mbor Reserve Forest campaign, which has been conducting field surveys in the forest, stated.
In 2012, the NGO had sent petitions to the Union Environment and Forest minister but no response was received.
"In fact the encroachers are setting up small tea gardens, cultivating mustard, constructing houses, running fisheries, besides smuggling timber from the reserve forest. This has been possible only because of the laxity of Forest officials and the district administration which have failed to enforce the laws," the NGO said.
Sources said that the forest has also become a passage for poachers who kill rhinos in the Kaziranga tiol Park.
There are allegations that the lower-rung Forest staff at mbor have been posted at the same place for several years. "As a result, some of them have forged a nexus with crimils and encroachers," the sources alleged.
The mbor Reserve Forest is spread over an area of 37 sq kms and is part of the 97 sq kms mbor-Doigrung Wildlife Sanctuary.
Over 50 per cent of its trees had been destroyed over the last 40 years and the land illegally occupied by people. Because of the destruction of forest, man-elephant conflict increased in this area and nearby villages. However, the remaining forests still support many species of endemic plants and wildlife, including hundreds of elephants. It also harbours many species of endangered birds including some hornbills, white-winged wood duck, lesser-adjutant stork and other forest birds. In 2004, Birdlife Intertiol evaluated the avian fau of the mbor and Garampani sanctuaries, declaring it an Important Bird Area which is now well-known as Garampani, mbor and Doigrung IBA.