Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on January 15 said that the Assam government has cleared encroachment from almost 90 per cent area of the Pabha Reserve Forest in Lakhimpur district.
The administration started the eviction drive to clear encroachment on January 10 which continued for several days, to evict around 500 "illegal settler" families.
"Our commitment to preserve our natural resources is sacrosanct. Happy to share that after 5 days of eviction exercise 4,163 ha (32,000 bigha) of Pabha Reserve Forest freed from encroachers," CM Sarma said in a tweet.The total area of the reserve forest is estimated to be 4,625.85 hectares, he added.
The Chief Minister also lauded efforts of the administration in their endeavour to conserve Assam's forest cover.
Earlier on January 11, The Lakhimpur District Administration and the Lakhimpur Division of the Forest Department conducted a massive eviction drive to free 450 hectares of encroached land in the historic Pabha Reserved Forest on Tuesday. According to information received from the Assistant Conservator of Forest, Lakhimpur Forest Division, a total area of 450 hectares of the Pabha Reserved Forest was encroached upon by some people for years.
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Notably, the actual area of the Pabha Reserved Forest was 4625.87 hectares when created on March 6, 1941. The Reserved Forest was the habitat of wild buffalos in Assam. The administration launched the eviction operation in two phases. On Tuesday, the administration conducted the eviction drive at Mohghuli to free 200 hectares of land by evicting 202 households. During the operation mustard cultivations of the encroachers in the forest land were destroyed. Moreover, they also dismantled the houses not to let the encroachers settle again.
People had claimed their rights over the land under the Forest Right Act of 2006. But their applications were rejected by the authority concerned. The State Government then decided to evict those people. The illegal settlers include people from different parts of the state and local people.
Lakhimpur Deputy Commissioner Sumit Sattawan said that the people living in the encroached areas were notified by the Forest Department and the district administration two years ago to vacate the area. On Monday, many of the 'illegal settlers' carried away their belongings. During the operation, the Conservator of Forest Bankim Sarmah, Divisional Forest Officer Ashok Dev Choudhury, Assistant Conservator of Forest Achyut Kumar Das, Lakhimpur SP BM Rajkhowa, Commandant of 13th Assam Police Battalion, Circle Officer of Naoboicha Revenue Circle and many other administrative and security officers were present in the area.
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