Army blocks razing of firing range in assam wildlife sanctuary


Guwahati, April 12: The army today obstructed the dismantling of the short firing range at Lama camp in Sonai Rupai wildlife sanctuary by the Assam forest department.

A team of 20-25 personnel from Sonai Rupai sanctuary in Sonitpur district under western Assam wildlife division arrived at the spot around 11am with hammers and axes and started dismantling the firing range.

Led by S.P. Vashishth, the divisional forest officer of western Assam wildlife division under whose jurisdiction the sanctuary falls, the forest personnel dismantled substantial portions of the firing range during the operation that continued for almost an hour.

“The operation had been under way for almost an hour before the army stepped in around noon,” a senior official of the wildlife division said.

“The army personnel said they had spoken to their superiors at Missamari camp (2-3km from the sanctuary) after which the operation came to a halt,” he added.

On April 4, the wildlife division had issued orders for dismantling the firing range and had served a notice to the army to vacate the camp. However, it did not receive any reply to the notice. It was only today that the army arrived at the spot.

The army has been saying that no firing practice was carried out at the range, which is behind the Lama army camp.

“If there is no firing practice at the range as the army says, then the army should close it down permanently,” the forest official said.

Sources said the wildlife division would issue a fresh notice to the army to dismantle the firing range within a week or the forest department will be forced to do it. A case will also be filed.

“I have asked for a report,” Tapan Chandra Sarma, the deputy commissioner of Sonitpur district, said.

“We are watching the situation as it is developing,” an army official said.

While the army has been saying that a small arms firing range is mandatory in the national interest as it helps to train troops to carry out the task of defending the integrity of the country, the forest department’s orders for dismantling it made it clear that there was no scope for any non-forestry activity in a wildlife sanctuary. When the firing range was set up, Sonai Rupai was not a sanctuary, but as it is a sanctuary now, it cannot have a firing range.

Wildlife experts agree.

“There is a way out if there is a will. But certainly there can be no place for a firing range in a wildlife sanctuary and the army should understand it. A firing range in a wildlife sanctuary disturbs the movement of animals,” Firoz Ahmed, a wildlife biologist with Aaranyak, a wildlife NGO, told this correspondent.

“It would be inappropriate to have a firing range in a wildlife sanctuary,” Belinda Wright, the executive director of Wildlife Protection Society of India, said.



  1. Thanks for bringing this to light. I shall be glad to volunteer for the army to find another piece of suitable place away from the sanctuary, if required.
    Let us leave the animals in their habitats.