"We are now empowered to take action as per the government's latest resolution of May 6 on the cutting of this wild tree. Unlike in the past, we are now the sole government agency to ensure that no Gando Bawal is cut anywhere in the district without our permission," R L Meena, conservator of the forest in Kutch told Newsline on Monday.
He added the measures adopted by the department for the implementation of the resolution would ensure there is regeneration of this tree, which will help stop salinity ingress in the Rann area.
He said there was a special mention of Banni in the resolution since the depletion of the jungle, which mainly consisted of Gando Bawal was at its highest, threatening the ecology of this region. Thus, the department would not allow felling a single tree, even though this pasture, one of the biggest in the country, belongs to the revenue department.
"Though this piece of land is not under our jurisdiction, we can still exercise control as it is a protected forest area since 1955. The forest management would therefore be as per our plan," he said.
He went on to say that prior permission would be required from the Forest department for felling of this tree in all government and public lands, the only exception being private lands, which would not require any permit.
"We have tentatively decided not to give permission for one year for cutting these trees in non-Banni areas. For, practically there aren't many trees left. We will also not issue any permit for transportation of the cut wood or charcoal for one year, and will review the situation after one year," he said.
He added that even a plea that the cut tree or the charcoal is part of the old stock would not be tenable. "There is no mention of this in the resolution and I will instruct my forest staff to seize such so called old stock of cut tree or charcoal," he said, adding that he would issue a circular to the deputy conservators stating that any forest personnel found breaching these new rules would invite suspension.
Last week, the department seized a truck laden with 400 to 500 bags of charcoal made from Gando Bawal.
Sources, however, said that the department would not be able to cope with this task. Geographically, the district of Kutch is bigger than even some of the small Indian states and with no staff in the 900-village district, monitoring would be a difficult task.
They pointed out it was because of this that the Revenue department was given the power to permit cutting of trees, as it had at least a talati at village level to act as a watch dog. Also, the Forest department is so short of staff at the field level that it would be unable to attend to even its regular work of forestation, they said.