Over 22 per cent of Assam’s total forest land was currently under encroachment, the state Assembly was informed Friday. Replying to BJP MLA Padma Hazarika’s resolution in Assam Assembly, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said that the state has a total forest land of 17,39,301.72 hectares, of which 3,87,885.45 hectares are encroached.
Assam has 312 reserved forest with 13,54,467.62 hectares of land, out of which 3,73,876.95 hectares are illegally occupied, while 3,971 hectares are encroached in five national parks that have a total area of 1,97,826 hectares.
Likewise, 10,037.50 hectares across 18 wildlife sanctuaries of 1,87,008.1 hectares are also under encroachment, Patowary informed the House. The state government is considering to set up a high-powered committee to suggest measures to protect the green cover, he said.
“After the new government took charge, 2,596.22 hectares of forest land have been freed from encroachment. Besides, forest officials periodically conduct eviction drive as per fund allocation in association with district administration and the superintendent of police,” he added.
Patowary admitted that the government has not been able to evict all encroachers from the forests and working on this direction with the help of satellite imaging. The minister, however, cautioned that there is difference between forest dwellers and those encroaching forest land after destroying it, otherwise forests cannot be saved.
In the reserved forests, there are 499 forest villages with 534.35 square km of land and total population of 2,34,113 dwellers, he informed. “As the matter is very sensitive, there is a need for a high-powered committee to study all aspects in detail. Next course of action will be considered after analysing that committee’s report,” Patowary said. He further said that man-animal conflict has increased in recent times and everyone is concerned about it. “If we cannot protect the forest, it will be impossible to prevent this conflict. For our own existence, we have to ensure protection of all creatures and forests. We cannot violate the rights of the other living elements,” Patowary said.
He also mentioned that global warming can be contained by more forestation and preservation only.
Accepting the government’s assurances, Hazarika withdrew his resolution on encroachment.