Illegal saw mills destroying forest cover: CAG

Shillong: Illegal saw mills have been destroying the forest cover endangering the ecology and environment of Meghalaya, as per the latest report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

"As many as 218 illegal saw mills were operating in the state as of June last year apart from 12 clandestine saw mills operating on the Assam-Meghalaya border in Garo Hills region," the report said.

In Jaintia Hills district, there were 96 unauthorised saw mills as compared to only four mills authorised by the concerned department. In Khasi Hills region, there were 35 authorised saw mills against 109 illegal units, it said.

There was a lack of concerted efforts from government departments including police and power in stopping the illegal industry. "FIRs lodged with the police to halt illegal operations were futile and assistance taken from the Meghalaya Electricity Corporation Ltd to disconnect power achieved little success," the report said.

"The ineffective dealing with the problem is a matter of serious concern with grave implications for the ecology and environment of the state," the report said.

CAG suggested setting up of a monitoring committee which would include officials from the departments of forest and police besides district administration to ensure coordinated and sustained efforts to stop illegal sawmills in Meghalaya.

The Supreme Court had in 1998 observed that the proliferation of wood-based industries was the main cause of degradation of forests in NE and asked all state governments of the region to regulate such industries.