Assam Forest Department reins in border timber smugglers

Sawn wood seized from country boat in early morning raid

GUWAHATI: The state forest department is upping the ante against timber smuggling activities along the Assam-Meghalaya border.

Rampant deforestation particularly in the hills along the inter-state border has been a concern even as timber smugglers have been reined in the by the department, despite manpower constraint, from time to time.

One such bid to smuggle about 300 cubic feet of sawn timber from border was cut short when a team from the forest department seized the wood at Goroimari in Kamrup district in a wee-hour operation on Wednesday.

“We activated a search team along with police and CRPF immediately after we were alerted on Tuesday evening about the attempt to smuggle timber (also comprising sal wood) on nine horse carts en route to the riverine area. While the smuggled wood could not be traced last night, our team recovered the items from a mechanised country boat at Goroimari around 3.30am this morning,” Ranjan Goswami, divisional forest officer, Kamrup West, told The Shillong Times on Wednesday.

Chief conservator of forest, Central Assam circle, H.K Talukdar had intimated the DFO, Kamrup West about the smuggling bid and timely action helped the department seize the sawn timber.

“The smuggled timber along with the boat has been handed over to the Nagarbera range office. The worth of the timber along with the mechanized boat would be close to Rs 3lakh,” Goswami said.

Throwing light on the modus operandi of the timber smugglers, the DFO said they get the timber sawed in banned sawmills, load the items on river rafts, camouflage them with plaintain/bamboo, transport them to the riverine areas and subsequently load them on boats for distribution across the state.

“It is difficult to get hold of smugglers as they generally get the information after we inform the police. Thereafter, it is easy for them to hide the items or throw them into the river and take cover,” he said.

The department has in the past seized timber from markets as well with raids conducted at regular intervals. “Manpower shortage across forest battalions has hindered effective operations at times,” Goswami said.

On the smuggling trend, the DFO said that in general there has been a reduction in the number of trees in the hills along the inter-state border. “So access to full-grown sal trees has been much less of late,” he added.

 

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