Wasting the east

The Central government's recent announcement that an action plan has been formulated to safeguard the pristine forests in the north-east -- in collaboration with the states of the region -- has not made any dent in the ongoing devastation in the picturesque valley of Barak near Silchar in Assam. Deforestation, shifting cultivation, encroachments, setting fire to the jungles and organised looting of forest products are commonplace here.

The ministry of environment and forests revealed in its survey that around 635 sq km of forest land had been lost due to deforestation, out of which 243 sq km alone was in the state of Assam. Concerned locals blame the ruling Congress-I government, which has allowed the cutting of the trees mainly by the Chakma refugees who have settled down in the neighbouring hill areas. They now plead for the reforestation of these areas denuded of valuable trees like teak, sal, sagoon and devdaru which were earlier found in large numbers.