English | Dzongkha Sunday, December 15, 2019

Illegal extraction along Amochu

By Sonam Wangdi, Phuentsholing
Jan 30, 2012
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Illegal extraction of natural resources along Amochu in Phuentsholing by those from across the border is a common sight. Miscreants extract sands, stones and timbers. And with the range office facing lack of manpower, the illegal activity is carried out even during the broad daylight.

When BBS visited the Amochu river banks, people on the other side of the river were seen loading stones into a truck bearing an Indian number plate. They were extracting stones from a restricted area. Such activity, nearby residents said, is common.

Miscreants pile stones and sands across the river making it easy for them to load into trucks. The loads are taken to Gowabari town which is about three kilometers from Phuentsholing.

Extraction of timber, sands and stones in Amochu area is allowed only in Toorsa and Phurbey areas. According to the Regional Manager of the Regional Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited, NRDCL, in Phuentsholing Tashi Peljor, although the monitoring is done by the Department of Forests, they are also equally concerned. “Since we are the implementing agency we are support on patrolling.”

BBS also caught sight of a man trying to smuggle timber by flowing it downstream. Forest officials said, the smugglers fell trees in the Kalishor Mountains near Toorsa River, one of the tributaries of Amochu.

Forest officials patrol along the Amochu banks. But, with just two of them in the team, it is quite difficult to carry out the task. They also look after the marking of timbers. The two also monitor timber transaction within their designated area in the region.

Kezang Wangdi, who heads the Patrol team of Phuentsholing range office, said they previously had four members in the team. But two of them retired.

According to forest officials, most of the illegal activities are carried out on the other side of Amochu. And crossing the river, especially in summer is one of the challenges. Moreover, the other side of the river falls under the jurisdiction of Samtse Range office.

“When the patrol team from Samtse comes we communicate through mobile phones and do joint-patrolling.” Kezang said that those people who carry out illegal extraction know the place very well. “When we try to catch them from here, they run away to the other side and likewise.”

For Samtse, a patrol team comprising of eight-forest guards patrol along the Amochu once a month. Patrolling is also carried out when they receive information about cases of smuggling.

The Chief Forestry Officer in Samtse, Kaka Tshering, said that most of the illegal logging takes place summer, when the river is swollen. “When our staff goes on patrolling they have to travel through India, so the culprits there already know that our staff are on patrol,” the Chief added.

The forest officials say patrolling along the area is not just difficult but risky. The smugglers they come across are mostly armed with knives and axe. The forest officials are armed with rifles but they are under no circumstances allowed to resort to any form of firing during patrolling duties. This is as per the government’s order issued in May last year.

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