Joint Forest Management Committee, Top Awang Leikai claimed that some people are trying to destroy the biggest forest reserve in the Imphal East purposely. It urged the state government to deploy police personnel in the surrounding areas of two reserved forests
Alleging that some people are deliberately setting Chingkhei Ching reserved forest and Nongmalching reserved forest on fire, Joint Forest Management Committee (JFMC), Top Awang Leikai on Thursday urged the state government to deploy police personnel in the surrounding areas of two reserved forests. The committee said four forest wildfire incidents were witnessed in two reserved forests between 13 January and 26 January.
In a statement issued by its president T Parijat Singh, the JFMC maintained that some people are trying to destroy the biggest forest reserve in the Imphal East purposely. It pointed the finger of suspicion at large encroachers in the reserved forests. They set ablaze forests to amass firewood, it said. Besides, there were incidents of picnic goers causing wildfires in the forests, it added.
Despite the strict prohibition on encroachment and entry to the reserved forest, it cannot be enforced due to the weakness of the forest department and the state government’s wrong policy, said the committee.
The JFMC pointed out the shortage of staff as the key reason for the failure to protect the forest cover in the State. In two range offices in Imphal East District i.e. Sawombung range office and Keirao range office, there are just nine to 11 officials while beat offices are manned by one or two staff only, it said. With this manpower, it will be impossible to prevent the forest office, it added.
The JFMC called for a special drive to sensitize the masses to the negative impacts of forest fire instead of battling the blaze after it breaks out. As part of this measure, deploying state police personnel and engaging VDF will help in protecting the forest, it said.
JFMC lamented that forest officials cannot be reached in this dry and windy season when forests catch fire quickly. JFMC said some officials have even changed their contact numbers after it put pressure on them to stop illegal encroachment in the reserved forest.
It alleged that powerful people with connections are removing earth from the hill by using JCB trippers. They encroached upon reserved forest areas by removing boundary pillars under the very nose of forest officials. When JFMC approached them to raise the issue and seek action against the encroachers, they refused and were angered at JCMC members for putting them in a catch-22 situation, it claimed.
JFMC maintained that in Chingkhei Ching Reserved Forest alone, there are 76 encroachers. Out of 76, 13 encroachers are Tinsid side of which seven have been given land-holding rights/patta.
On 4 September 2019, the forest department issued an eviction order against the encroachers under the Manipur Forest Rule 1971. As a follow-up action, the forest officials along with a large security force tried to evict the encroachers on 3 March 2019. However, they aborted the drive without any eviction. Out of the Chingkhei Ching Reserved Forest area of 14.23 sq/km, 42.7 hectares have been included as revenue, it said.
Blaming the state government’s weakness and wrong policy for the inaction, JFMC said it will support the state government’s actions for the protection of the reserved forests.