SHILLONG: The State Forest department is distressed over the mushrooming of small-scale illegal saw mills all along the Meghalaya-Assam border and in several other locations across the State despite continued efforts to crackdown on the same.
A high ranking official of the State Forest department, while speaking to reporters on Wednesday, admitted that a ‘cat and mouse’ game is going on between the department and illegal sawmill operators. The department is persistent in its efforts to close illegal saw mills but they always manage to pop up after some time.
“People set up such illegal sawmills and remain quiet and when we take action against them they stop operations and resume again after some time,” the official said on request of anonymity.
In 2012, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had stated that these illegal saw mills are destroying the forest cover in Meghalaya and endangering the ecology and environment of the State.
As per the CAG report, as many as 218 illegal saw mills were operating in the State as of June 2012, apart from 12 clandestine saw mills operating on the Assam-Meghalaya border in Garo Hills region.
The report claimed that in Jaintia Hills there were 96 unauthorized saw mills as compared to only four mills authorized by the concerned department. In Khasi Hills region, there were 35 authorized saw mills as against 109 illegal units.
The Forest official admitted that there was a need to step up vigil to ensure that these saw mills do not cause any further damage to the State’s forest cover.
The CAG had even suggested setting up of a monitoring committee which would include officials from the departments of Forest and Police, besides the district administration to ensure coordinated and sustained efforts to stop illegal saw mills in Meghalaya.
The Supreme Court had in 1998 observed that the proliferation of wood-based industries was the main cause of degradation of forests in the North East and had directed all the state governments of the region to regulate such industries.