Betel nut trees

Boko: The Assam Forest Department has chopped off over 6,000 betel nut trees in Upper Bamunigaon village in Boko along the Assam-Meghalaya border under Bondapara Forest Office for nursery under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority(CAMPA) scheme.

The locals, however, have expressed strong resentment over the forest department for recklessly cutting down the betel nut trees.

Frylin R. Marak, executive member of Rabha Hasong Autonomous Council, said, “I have never seen such kind of action by the forest department in the name of eviction. The village is inhabited by the Garos and they have been living in this area for over two decades. They earn their living by cultivating betel nut, ginger and others.”

“The forest department should have served an eviction notice before chopping off the betel nut plantations,” claimed Marak. 

“The trees were preserved by the villagers of the Upper Bamunigaon for the development of the village. They only targeted the Garos and not others. If they want to clear forest lands, then they should have carried out eviction all over and not only in the area inhabited by Garo people,” he alleged. 

“I came to know that the forest department served notices only in Garo-inhabited areas. Before the eviction, they should have made provisions for the settlement of the people who have been living in the area for the last two to three decades. I request Prime Minister Modi and Chief Minister Himanata Biswa Sarma to look into the matter. The tribal people are being harassed in the name of eviction,” added Marak. 

It may be mentioned here that Upper Bamunigaon village falls under the Gizang Reserve Forest area.

Miffed over betel nut felling, one of the villagers said, “If the state forest department destroys our cultivation like this, how can we live? We will be forced to take the decision to support Meghalaya for our bright future.”

Another villager said, “Last Tuesday forest department’s officials came and tried to chop off the betel nut plantations, but our villagers strongly opposed it as the cultivations are for the development of the village and not for any other purposes. But suddenly on Wednesday, without any notice, the officials of the department chopped off around 6,000 mature betel nut trees.”

“The DFO of the West Divisional Forest Office told us that the betel nut trees have been felled for a nursery. The official informed us that more such eviction drives will be carried out in more forest land very soon,” added the villager. 

Dimpy Bora, DFO, Kamrup West Division, told EastMojo, “The site has been selected for nursery and tree plantation under the CAMPA scheme on 25 hectares of forest land. So, we carried out the eviction drive in the area. We will evict more area that falls under the reserve forest for the CAMPA scheme. Next time, we will take help from police and administration for a smooth eviction drive.”

She also added that the forest department would work with the villagers for the nursery under the scheme.

The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) is meant to promote afforestation and regeneration activities as a way of compensating for forest land diverted to non-forest uses.

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