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    Van Mahotsav Has No Relevance In Assam: Environmentalists

    Over 22 per cent of the state’s total forest land is currently under encroachment


    Guwahati, July 1, 2019

    The Van Mahotsav (Festival of Forests) that has been observed in India since 1950 has no relevance in Assam now since the state has witnessed an alternate picture over the decades, Mubina Akhtar, an environmentalist said on July 1st, 2019.

    Mubina Akhtar, secretary of Kaziranga Wildlife Society, while expressing strong resentment at the government for not doing anything, said, “Shrinkage of the forest areas and wetlands and unimaginable encroachment in forest lands across the state jeopardised the biodiversity for which human-elephant conflict is on the rise.”

    Also read: Jati-Mati-Bheti in Danger, Minister admits Rampant Encroachment across Assam

    “It is shameful that we have to celebrate environment day or Van Mahotsav to plant saplings. The seven reserve forests in Kamrup – Garbhanga, Hengerabari, South Sarania, Gotanagar, Jalukbari, Kalapahar and Fatasil which are under large scale encroachment posing grave threat to the urban biodiversity,” she added.

    It may be mentioned that the Van Mahotsav was embarked by Kulapati Kanaiyalal Munshi – the then Union Minister for Food and Agriculture to create enthusiasm among masses for forest conservation and planting trees.

    Encroachment Statistics

    On February 22nd, 2019, the parliamentary affairs minister Chandra Mohan Patowary while replying to a question to BJP legislator Padma Hazarika’s question in Assam Assembly had said that over 22 per cent of the state’s total forest land was currently under encroachment.

    Patowary had said that 3,87,885.45 hectares out of 17,39,301.72 hectares forest land of the state were encroached while 3,73,876.95 hectares out of 13,54,467.62 hectares of land spread across 312 reserved forests were illegally occupied.

    Patowary had also informed the house that a total of 3,971 hectares were encroached in five national parks in the state that have a total area of 1,97,826 hectares land while 10,037.50 hectares across 18 wildlife sanctuaries of 1,87,008.1 hectares were also under encroachment.

    Transportation of elephants

    The Kaziranga Wildlife Society, Early Birds and Aranya Suraksha Samiti unanimously condemned the recent attempts to transport four elephants from Assam to Allahabad and said it was a cruel act towards the animal. “According to government data, around 259 elephants were transported to various places of India for different purpose during the period of 2003-11. But, unfortunately there is no such information about return of those elephants or whereabouts of the elephants. So, we demand the government to publish a list of elephants transported or given on lease till date,” Mubina Akhar said.

    On the other hand, Moloy Barua, an environmentalist and president of Early Birds, an NGO, said, “Elephant was declared the National Heritage Animal in 2010. But the condition of elephants – both wild and captive is miserable.”

    Pointing towards the racket of elephant smuggling, he said, “Smuggling of captive elephants has taken the form of an industry in the state. Tinsukia district has become ill-famous for illegal elephant trade. A racket is involved in the business under the nose of the state Forest Department.”

    The NGOs also alleged that certain section of the forest department officials is involved in such condemnable act with some vested interest.

    Death statistics in Man-Jumbo conflict

    On February 7th, 2019, the Assam forest Minister Parimal Sulkabaidya, while replying to a question by Congress Chaygaon MLA Rekibuddin Ahmed, told the house that altogether 761 people and 249 elephants died in human-elephant conflict between 2010 and 2018.

    During that period, Dhansiri wildlife division recorded the highest number of human deaths (130), followed by Sonitpur West (82) and Goalpara (76) while the year 2015 witnessed the most deaths (149). On the other hand, 25 elephants died in 2010, 15 in 2011, 28 in 2012, 22 in 2013, 32 in 2014, 22 in 2015, 32 in 2016 and 46 in 2017, the minister informed the house.

    The highest number of elephant casualties during this period was because of electrocution (92) followed by train accident (54), accidental (38), poisoning (30), poaching (20) and injury (15).



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    First published