Assam CM Urges Union Minister for Post Facto Forest Clearance Amid Border Security Concerns

Northeast Desk, 24th May: Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has appealed to Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav to grant post facto forest clearance for constructing a commando battalion unit in a protected forest area. This request follows a controversial approval by a forest official in Assam, intended to curb encroachments by individuals from the neighboring state of Mizoram.

The construction project, approved in 2023 by then principal chief conservator of forests MK Yadava, involved diverting approximately 44 acres of forest land in the Assam-Mizoram interstate border area of Inner Line Reserve Forest. Despite lacking prior forest clearance under the Forest Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2023, the construction commenced, drawing scrutiny from central authorities. The Union Ministry subsequently directed the state government to halt construction, citing statutory violations.

In his letter, CM Sarma emphasized the urgent need to address encroachments and deforestation, highlighting significant encroachment activities from Mizoram, including road and settlement constructions, which have led to substantial forest destruction. He underscored the national security implications, referencing past violence along the interstate border.

The Assam government has also sought forest clearance for the project through the Union Environment Ministry’s Parivesh website, requesting clearance for an 11.5-hectare built-up area within the 44-hectare project.

Efforts by media outlets to obtain comments from the Ministry regarding Sarma’s request and the construction status have been met with silence. Meanwhile, concerns have been raised about MK Yadava’s conduct, who, despite allegations of violating forest conservation laws, was appointed as Special Chief Secretary (Forests) by the Assam government.

This issue gains further complexity with revelations that Yadava approved the diversion of additional forest land at the Assam-Nagaland border for a police battalion camp in the Geleky reserve forest in 2022. The developments have sparked debate among local conservationists and central authorities, highlighting the ongoing challenges in balancing security needs with environmental conservation.

Also read: Meghalaya Mandates Khasi Tribe Certificate for ST Certificate Applicants from Khasi Hills

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