Villagers of Khanarok under Chanam Sandrok Gram Panchayat in Imphal East have decried the alleged encroachment on Protected Forest areas of Waithouching Hill range by villagers of Waithou Phunal Maring village.
Waithouching Hill range was declared as ‘Protected Forest Area’ on June 3, 1966 following a gazette notification by the Manipur government. The Waithouching protected forest area is under the purview of Thoubal Forest Division while Phunal Maring village in Wathouching hill range falls under Kangpokpi District administration.
Speaking to media regarding the matter, president of Khanarok Decent Youth Club, Yenshembam Abung, highlighted that complaints had been filed to both Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) and Deputy Commissioner of Imphal East district in connection with the alleged encroachment on protected forest areas.
He also maintained that the respective authorities had initiated measures in compliance with the complaints filed.
“The DFO had sent forest rangers and officials to inspect the alleged areas encroached by Phunal Maring villagers Waithouching Hill range on April 14; during the inspection, the officials notified the villagers to remove the illegal structures built on protected areas and warned them not to repeat the action,” Abung informed.
He alleged that new houses were sprouting up in areas which had dense green covers and stated that clearance of large forest areas for such construction had dried several natural springs in the hill range.
There are no more natural water sources for paddy fields in the foothills which has triggered panic among villagers, he added.
Abung further mentioned that the majority of the newly constructed houses in Waithouching Hill range were locked and had no residents.
“The Phunal Maring villagers had also levelled huge patches of land in the hills to construct new structures; although the Khanarok villagers had intervened to stop such actions, the task will be hard without proper intervention from authorities concerned,” he said.
Abung expressed suspicion that the encroachment may be an attempt to further the boundary of Phunal Maring village.
He highlighted that the encroachment on protected forest land by villagers of Phunal Maring village was illegal as it violated the rules and guidelines placed by the state government on Protected Forest Areas.
As such he urged the state government to swiftly act and strive to resolve the matter at the earliest.