GUWAHATI: Data of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change has revealed that as much as 13 percent of Assam's total forest area is under encroachment, which is almost double the all-India rate.
According a report of the ministry, 7.40 lakh hectare of forest is under encroachment across the country, out of which 50.9 per cent (3.77 lakh hectare) is in Assam. The report further mentions that the encroachment in Assam is not restricted to construction of houses, but include various types of commercial activity.
According to official sources, the total recorded forest area in Assam is 26,836 sq km. Around two lakh households have been built in the encroached area. The sources said that a huge proportion of the encroached forest area has been occupied by neighbouring states like Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Mizoram.
The sources also informed that the other encroachers include people of dubious nationality as well as dwellers of forest fringe villages. It is estimated that there is a population of 64.70 lakh in the forest fringe villages of the state. The average per capita removal of forest produce include .218 tonne of fuel wood, 3.751 tonne of fodder, .007 tonne of bamboo and .005 cubic metre of small timber for the daily requirement of people.
The sources said that Assam has been consistently losing tree cover in the last 20 years due to various biotic factors and encroachment of forest land. Although the government has been carrying out periodic eviction drives in recent times, the menace of encroachment in forest areas has not been totally eradicated. The sources said that part of the problem is that forest personnel do not stop encroachment at the initial stage itself. When eviction drives are carried out when more and more encroachers settle in a specific forest area, then law-and-order problems crop up, the sources pointed out.
The sources said that Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is taking the problem extremely seriously and the forest personnel have instructed to carry out regular drone surveillance to prevent further encroachment in forest areas of the state.