(1) Gone are the days of lush green forest in the hills surrounding Sopur.
(2) A former forest range officer, according to allegations, took the advantage of the persimission for earth cutting for the Samatapur-Byrnihat rail line under construction and allowed rampant earth-cutting in the surrounding hills.
(3) Most of the drains are clogged with red soil carried away from the hills.
(4) Heavy siltation due to rampant earth-cutting in the hills made vast areas of otherwise arrable lands unfit for cultuvation.
(5) Poor farmers are at the receiving end.
(6) Artificial floods haunt Sopur, a situation that was never experienced in the area.
By our Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, April 11: The Sopur area, as it is seen now, is a pale shadow of its former self that was an area with lush green forest and fertile and arable lands. The local people blame it on a forest range officer, who has been transferred to Guwahati Forest Division recently, for the present condition of the area. This year, the area is likely to witness artificial floods as most of the drains are clogged due to large-scale siltation because of heavy earth-cutting.
According to the local people, earth-cutting was rampant in the area despite the promulgation of prohibitory order against the practice. Assam is a place with certain peculiarities. It is the place where under the same government one department enforces orders only to be violated or ignored by another department. The Kamrup (M) district administration promulgated ban on earth-cutting the Sopur Revenue Circle. However, there was permission for earth-cutting in some areas for the new rail line from Samata pathar Star Cement Plant to Byrnihat. Taking that advantage, then forest range officer allegedly allowed rampant earth-cutting in the area, but not for the rail line.
“The consequence of the practice is such that almost all the drains carrying water from the area during the monsoon are clogged with red soil carried away from the surrounding hills due to rampant earth-cutting and deposited there. The blockage of the drains is a serious threat to the people in the area that may come under severe water-logging problems this monsoon,” the local people said, and added: “This is not all. Vast areas of arable lands here are now unfit for cultivation due to heavy siltation arising out of rampant earth-cutting in the surrounding hills. This is a loss that can’t be compensated, and the poor farmers are at the receiving end.”
The people in the locality alleged that the forest range officer could mint money by allowing illegal earth-cutting in the area. “Any range officer who comes to Sopur continues earth-cutting and tree felling. Sopur has also lost its green cover as tree-felling was rampant in the area in the past few years under the very nose of Forest officials. The ranger is blamed on this count also,” the affected people said.