Govt fails to stem timber smuggling in Ri Bhoi

TV footage shows smugglers with timber in Ri Bhoi
Shillong, Nov. 21 : The rampant felling continues unabated whether it is for charcoal or for the wood-based industries situated in parts of Ri Bhoi district.
After the Supreme Court ban on felling, the Meghalaya government has not adopted any viable working plan to stop the illegal activity.
The forests of Jaintia Hills, West Khasi Hills and Ri Bhoi districts and parts of Garo hills have become the soft targets for the illegal procurement of timber.
The timber is reportedly used by industries at Byrnihat and Umiam in the identified industrial areas of Ri Bhoi district.
Trucks loaded with timber are mostly brought at night to the Umiam factories after crossing several forest checkgates and police stations with enforcers turning a blind eye, allege the residents.
The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980, was meant to stop the diversion of forest land for other purposes, and to stop deforestation.
However, the act is often violated by showing forest areas as arid land.
The Supreme Court’s order in the TN Godavarman case of 1997 said there shall be a complete ban on the movement of felled trees and timber from any of the seven northeastern states to any other state in the country either by rail, road or waterway.
The court had also directed the state governments to constitute expert committees to identify areas that are forests and plantations.
On the allegations, forest minister Prestone Tynsong said the matter would be looked into.
If teakwood is used in plywood industries in Ri Bhoi, it should be from the government plantations, he added.
“However, if other trees are used, we have to inquire into the matter,” he added.
The forest minister added that the government would impose fines and confiscate the charcoal if anyone was found supplying charcoal from the state to the ferro-alloy industries in Ri Bhoi.
He said the high-level committee, which is examining all aspects related to the use of forestland and areas being used by the industries, especially the cement plants, will submit its report.
This will help the government to streamline the industries.