Nagaon district tops the list among all districts of Asom in having the highest number of illegal saw mills operating in different prohibited forest reserves. An unofficial source also alleged that the district at present has more than a hundred illegal saw mills which are functioning under the very nose of the forest and police officials. The different prohibited forest areas include Dabaka, Lumding, Kaki, Salana, Chapanalla, Anjukpani, Lawkhowa, Garajan, Ambagan, Borghuli, Amchai, Madartoli and other forest reserves. All of these reserves have now been converted into a haven of illegal timber smugglers, many of whom are being given protection and shelter by a section of powerful political leaders of the ruling party, sources added. In the meantime, the DFO Nagaon has launched several drives against the timber smugglers and illegal saw mills, and have even managed to detect and lay seize to several such mills, notably from Panikhati, Arjuntol, Jagari, Hatichung, Kawaimari, Jakhalabandha, Chapanala, Silghat, Mairabari and Dhing areas. But such operations have proved to be ineffective in curtailing the spread of the net of timber smuggling which is assuming alarmingly proportions in all the forest areas. It has been found that even after the seizure of mills, the proprietors easily manage to free them from the court, due to their nexus with higher officials of the forest and police departments. Recently, owing to the initiative of the forest officials of Salana Range several such illegal saw mills were seized by the district forest officer from different places of Kaliabor area, but no follow-up action has been taken by the forest department against the timber smugglers and saw mills till date. Most of the mills are freely operating is different places of the Samaguri LAC. More than 37 such illegal mills were functioning under the shelter of a section of political leaders of the ruling party of the LAC, it is alleged. It is also alleged by the conscious people of the areas that in the Samaguri LAC itself there are many such mills illegally functioning at Lawkhowa, Ambagaon, and Borghuli. The people of the Kaliabor and Samaguri LAC have requested the Forest Minister of the State, an elected MLA of the Samaguri LAC to give his personal attention to the matter, and to also visit the forest areas to take stock of the situation. It may be mentioned that, Nagaon district alone is endowed with 9 forest reserves, but except a couple of them the others have all turned into barren land due to indiscriminate felling of trees resulting in slow disappearance of the flora and fauna. According to an unofficial source, more than 200 big saw mills are functioning in the district with timbers brought from different forest reserves, in open disregard of the prohibition order of the Supreme court in this direction. If the civil, police and forest department continues to be so indifferent it is not long when forests would altogether disappear from the area. It is worth mentioning that in the last couple of years, encroachment in Lawkhowa wild life sanctuary and other reserve forest is rampant with thousands of encroachers (suspected illegal immigrant Bangladeshis) having entered the forest and feeding off the valuable timber wealth and also eliminating the wild life in the forests. Wild animals have been found to be moving into the neighbouring villages, causing great concern among the department officials and naturalists. The Lowkhowa forest reserve is perceived to be the home of more than 200 varieties of migratory and local birds. However, in view of the depletion of the forest reserves, a conscious section of people appealed to the Forest Minister of Asom who hails from Nagoan to take appropriate measures to save the forest resources and also to take stern measures to punish the guilty, sources added.