Large scale timber logging in Papum Reserve Forest

[ Tongam Rina ]
ITANAGAR, Apr 19: There is report of large scale timber logging inside the Papum Reserve Forest, adjoining the Pakke Wildlife Sanctuary in East Kameng district since the last few months.
After the Forest Department and Administration seized timber-laden trucks and arrested some people in March last, the activities are reported to have slowed down but not completely stopped.
An officer of the department, who wished to remain anonymous, said that activities have been controlled.
But villagers say that it continues, though the scale has minimized a bit.
A villager also said the sporadic logging has been going on for the last two years for commercial purposes.
“Earlier, people would just get timber for private use but now it is all commercial”, he said.
He alleges that the Forest Department, police and administration are not sincere in finding a mechanism to control timber logging inside the Reserve Forest. Another villager informed that Darlong, Seijosa and Jolly Langka have formed respective Village Forest Development Councils to stop such illegal activities. But if the government departments are not sincere, we cannot do anything as it gets personal at the village level if we try to interfere, he said.
The villagers, who have been partners in conservation of hornbills, are worried that felling of trees will disturb the hornbills as it is their breeding season.
A government official said that logging is mainly done by the local people with labourers brought in from Assam.
According to an official source, labour camps solely for commercial logging have come up inside the reserve forest near Dayaso, Margaso Saibung, Jolly Langka and other nearby villages. Some of the camps were destroyed by the police and forest department in a joint patrolling.
The villagers allege that labourers have indulged in hunting activities during their stay inside these makeshift camps.
An official informed that logging activities started when the government decided to notify buffer zones in Tiger Reserves a few years ago.
In 2012, the Supreme Court had directed the state governments to notify buffer zones around each tiger reserves to regulate land commercialization around tiger habitats in order to preserve the endangered species. The Papum Forest Reserve adjoins Pakke Tiger Reserve. In retaliation, the villages started with small scale logging, which later became widespread, said the officials.
The administration and Forest Department blame each other for the inability to control the timber logging, while the villagers blame both.
“The area is porous and very vast so the limited number of police cannot control the movement of labourers. We just don’t have the resources. The timber laden trucks pass through the Range Office and they should know better”, says an officer.
A forest official said that it is not the responsibility of the department to keep an eye on entry of the labourers from Assam into the forest for timber logging. The police and administration are responsible for the check gates, he said.
The department further said that it does not have the required facilities to patrol the entire area. The guards and vehicles are limited, so are the facilities, said an officer.
Principal Secretary, Environment and Forest Omkar Singh said that the department will initiate necessary action against the defaulters after an investigation.
He said that to control illegal activities inside the reserve forests, a joint Assam-Arunachal Forest Department Committee has been formed, which not only exchanges intelligence reports but carries out awareness generation among the villagers. (All the sources, departmental as well as private individuals that this reporter spoke to chose to remain anonymous.)

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