TINSUKIA: State Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya did open the Dihing Patkai National Park (DPNP) covering the twin districts of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh. However, the Park is not yet free from encroachment from Arunachal Pradesh.
The Forest department remained a mute spectator when the encroachment and illegal tree felling began in 1998 in the Nakphan area in 1 hectare of land at the behest of NSCN militants. Interestingly, the Longding district administration of Arunachal Pradesh is ignorant of encroachment. Environmental activists of Nahakatia-Nampup apprehend that the issue may escalate into border skirmishes once the Assam Government intervenes, if the recent spot visit and subsequent statement of Deepsikha Saikia, the newly appointed Circle Officer of Naharkatia, is any indication.
More than 110 hectares of the prime national park area is under the illegal occupation of Arunachalese where they not only cultivated tea but established a village- Naitong Village with a road and a concrete bridge. The area is not accessible from the Assam side owing to dense forest and without any boundary demarcation. On July 11, Saikia made an on-the-spot study and later told the media that as there was no road from the Assam side she had to reach the area via Arunachal and was aware of militants' activities in the locality.
This correspondent had a telephonic talk with the DC and the ADC of Longding district of Arunachal Pradesh. Both the officials expressed total ignorance of encroachment. ADC N Borang, however, said that he would look into the matter. The Dibrugarh DC could not be contacted.
The situation made the local environment activists raise their eyebrows. Before the final gazette notification of DPCP on June 15, 2021, the Dibrugarh district administration issued a public notice on January 1asking people for claims and objections in prescribed format within two months but did not hold any public hearing even as the Forest department was well aware of encroachment.