Forest dept. cracks down on boulder smugglers (Kolkata)
Tirthankar Mitra, The Statesman
July 25, 2021
Sitting up and taking notice after cases of a lone elephant or rhino
getting stuck in the soft soil once covered by boulders surfaced, the state
forest department has started a crackdown on boulder mafia illegally
ferrying these large rocks smoothed by erosion to construction projects
within the state and Bangladesh.
The absence of boulders has its fallout on the movement of the creatures of
the wild, as accustomed to lumber along on beaten paths strewn with
boulders, these heavy creatures tend to lose their footing on soft surfaces
and injure themselves only to find themselves at the mercy of the elements
Usually, a tiger or a wild dog pack or a leopard or a snow leopard would
give a wide berth to an elephant or a rhinoceros. But they are dead meat if
caught stuck in a river bed. And as they abandon old routes, elephant herds
often find themselves entering human settlements, leading to man-animal
conflict as a chain reaction.
The forest department pulled up its socks following the interception of
100-odd boulder loaded trucks recently, it was learnt. This is the tip of
the iceberg as it has also come to the department’s notice that hundreds of
trucks loaded with boulders from north Bengal roll into Bangladesh through
Changrabandha and several other points, sources stated. Boulder theft is
not only affecting wildlife. The course of the rivers which are marked with
boulders are also changing in their absence, it was learnt from the forest
The smuggled boulders are usually sourced from the districts of Jalpaiguri
and Alipurduar. Trucks roll into reserve forest areas to smuggle boulders
from the beds of Jaldhaka, Teesta, Mudki, Raidak and Sankosh rivers.
Removing boulders from the river bed needs the Chief Wild Life Warden’s
approval. Obviously, the boulder mafia operates sans any official nod.