By Ronald S. Syiem
NONGSTOIN: Despite the Supreme Court order banning production and transportation of charcoal in the State, there is rampant violation of the apex court order in every nook and corner of West Khasi Hills with burning of charcoal and illegal transportation being practiced without any interference by the police or the district administration or the Forest department.
The Shillong Times conducted a follow up on the illegal trade in charcoal and found that burning of charcoal was commonplace in Seinduli, Porla, Rambrai, Maroit, Umsaw, Urkali and other areas of the district.
It was learnt that last year transportation of charcoal was done only in the night time since the smugglers were scared of the police or the district administration; however, this year, charcoal is being transported in broad day light in complete mockery of the order of the Supreme Court.
Sources told The Shillong Times that absence of a Forest division in West Khasi Hills is the main cause of illegal production and transportation of charcoal. The district has only a Social Forestry division and they have no authority to apprehend the smugglers.
Taking note of the illegal charcoal trade, the KSU Nongkhlaw Circle condemned the Forest department for not doing anything to check illegal burning of charcoal. KSU circle president S. Marbaniang said the Forest department should launch a cleanup operation to get rid of illegal possession, vending and transportation of charcoal and other forest produces.
Incidentally, a driver of a charcoal truck, on the request of anonymity, alleged that some local NGO members facilitate transportation of charcoal to some companies located at Byrnihat in Ri-Bhoi.
Hinting at a large scale charcoal scandal in West Khasi Hills, the driver said trucks carrying illegal charcoal change the route after reaching Mawmaram and proceeds via the Mawmaram- Umsawkhwan avoiding the national highways to escape detection by police and others.