Massive illegal timber smuggling on in Namdhapa National Park  

      Seized timber-laden truck               kutcha road  built by smugglers

  • 2,000 CFT timber found: DM

By A O News Service

ITANAGAR, Mar 18: Massive illegal timber smuggling is going on in Namdapha National Park and Tiger Reserve (NNPTR) as has been found by a the team led by Changlang deputy commissioner Sunny K Singh on March 14 last.

The NNPTR in Changlang district, near Myanmar border, spans an area of 1,985 sqkm, including a core area of 1,808 sq km and a buffer zone of 177 sqkm. It boasts of various exotic flora and fauna species and is the only place where four big cats – tiger, leopard, snow leopard and clouded leopard, are found.

A joint team of district administration and forest department conducted an operation to find out why a tiger ventured out of the core area after 2015 when large-scale timber smuggling was detected inside the national park. Several illegal timber depots were found in the core area of the park while timber smugglers have carved a 20-km stretch of kutcha road in and around the core area of the park to transport timber,

The DC said wood-based industries legally operate in Changlang district. The forest department issues permit by stipulating a limit and the mills manufacture veneer and plywood and then export the finished product from the district, Singh said.

“The problem is that the persons involved in timber operations cut more trees beyond the prescribed quota. They built a road in NNPTR up to the core area and resorted to rampant illegal felling of trees and extracted timber from inside the park since November last year.

“It was a difficult operation and the smugglers made it even more by blocking our way with logs. However, our team members showed unmatched strength and cleared the path,” Singh said on Saturday.

In fact, spotting of a tiger near a human habitation outside NNPTR led to unearthing of illegal timber depots in the core area of the park, the DC said, adding a Royal Bengal Tiger was caught on cameras near Deban Forest Inspection Bungalow in January last, second tiger spotted in NNPTR after an eight-year gap.

A district official said on condition of anonymity said it is difficult to comprehend how the smugglers carried out such “large-scale illegal activities” under the nose of forest department officials.

The administration directed forest officials to ensure strict monitoring of all suspected areas adjoining NNPTR and take stringent action against smugglers.

During the operation, eight persons were arrested.  The team also seized an excavator, a pickup and two trucks, one loaded with timber. Another excavator and two trucks were found abandoned in the jungle, Singh said, adding two persons, one from Arunachal Pradesh and another from Assam, are absconding and arrest warrants were issued against them, the DC said.

The DC said the sighting of a Royal Bengal Tiger was not a mere coincidence and attributed it to habitat destruction owing to timber smuggling in the catchment of Mpen Nallah – a perennial stream.  “The catchment of Mpen Nallah has dried up due to deforestation. It is the source of water for the animals of Namdapha as well as the residents of the Miao subdivision. If there is a scarcity of water, there will surely be human-animal conflicts,” Singh said.

According to preliminary estimates, over 2,000 CFT (cubic feet) of timber was found lying at several illegal depots en route.

“Nobody should dare touch Namdapha. The administration is fully committed to preserving the rich flora and fauna of the national park despite handful of forest guards. We will go to every possible extent under the ambit of the law to preserve its sanctity,” Singh added.

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