Meghalaya allowed to harvest trees
After a gap of nine years, the Centre has approved a "working scheme" of the Khasi Hills District Council (KHADC) to harvest trees in the West Khasi Hills district of the state.
The rampant felling of trees was banned by a verdict of the Supreme Court in 1996.
The verdict of the apex court was of a total ban at that time. However, in 1998 in another landmark judgement, the Supreme Court allowed "harvesting" of trees with prior approval of the Centre.
The KHADC had over the past seven years worked with the Principal Conservator of Forest's office in Shillong, to chalk out the "working scheme".
Most of West Khasi Hills district is sustained by timber trade, with unemployment rising sharply following the Supreme Court's verdict in 1996.
Principal Conservator of Forest VS Nautiyal has said that the KHADC's working scheme to harvest trees in the East Khasi Hills and Ri-Bhoi districts remain to be approved by the Centre.
Only West Khasi Hills' working scheme letter of approval was received on October 27, he said, adding that Nautiyal said that a monitoring group would be set up by his office to oversee the correct implementation of the working scheme.
With Meghalaya being a Sixth Schedule state, most forests here are under the direct control of the district councils. With the approval of the working scheme, people in the district can now cut trees in specific areas earmarked scientifically.
Alternative afforestation measures would also have to be taken up once the felling begins, to offset environmental degradation, which initially led to concerns among various groups and subsequently to the total ban on the felling of trees.