Unabated timber smuggling continues in N Kashmir
JV, Sopore and Langate forest divisions worst hit
Baramulla: Even as the Forest department spends huge money on plantation drives, the unabated plunder of green gold in various compartments of Jehlum Valley (JV), Sopore and Langate forest divisions goes unchecked.
These is also despite there being huge public outcry against green felling and rampant timber smuggling, with people accusing the forest officials of being hand-in-glove with the timber smugglers.
Known for its thick and dense forests, the green cover in Baramulla district are fast dwindling due to “massive smuggling by smugglers in collusion with forest officials and men in uniform from last 20 years,” people allege
As one enters the beautiful forests of Kutri Naribal in Rafiabad, these once thick forest compartments 20, 42, today present dismal look with thousands of chopped off stumps scattered over a vast land.
Locals says it is an “organized loot of green gold with forest officials abetting smugglers to earn quick buck.” They also say that security agencies are also aiding and helping smugglers.
“The practice of felling of green trees is pretty common in forests of Baramulla, Rafiabad, Sopore and other adjacent areas. Here the forest land has turned bald and the damage is more than what forest authorities claim,” said an elderly person Abdul Rahim Bhat, a resident of Rafaiabad.
“You can see locals sawing the timber right inside the forest areas without any fear,” he added.
“In Sopore, smugglers have not spared even small trees. Compartment number 26 has been mowed down by smugglers,” said Nasir Ahmed of Sopore.
Pointing towards the pony track, the locals while talking to ‘Kashmir Images’ said, “This all is not possible without the active patronage of the forest authorities, forest protection force and other security agencies who patrol these forests round-the-clock. Here the forests are being looted in broad daylight and officials certainly receive part of the sleazy money,” locals alleged.
“The smugglers can be seen ferrying timber on horses during wee hours daily, and it is only the officials who have the cheek to claims that they do not see it happening,” said another elderly villager Ghulam Rasool Bhat.
According to Abdul Ahad Wani, a resident of Dobgah village, “timber smuggling has been adopted as job by more or less every resident in this area, this illegal trade goes right under the nose of forest authorities.”
“The officials of the concerned department have turned blind eye towards the issue. Many a times we approached senior functionaries of the department, and informed them about the unabated cutting of trees by smugglers and the role of forest employees in facilitating it, but the officials failed to take any substantial action against the accused,” another local resident Ali Mohammad said.
When contacted, Conservator Forests, North Kashmir, Irfan Rasool Wani, he while talking to ‘Kashmir Images’ claimed, “We have been able to curb a lot of smuggling during past couple of years and there is a lot of impact of our war against smugglers. We have arrested many smugglers under PSA and things have improved.”
He said “Forest smuggling is a socio-economic problem as some people are earning livelihood out of it. We are likely to run a training program to train people involved in smuggling so that they can’t get some alternative job and things will change definitely,” he added.
However, when confronted with the reports about continued damage to the forests at the hands of timber smugglers, he said, “ We will cross-check the inputs and those involved will be dealt under law.
“I will look into the matter. If anything wrong is going on it will be taken care of,” Conservator said.
Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Langate, Mohmmad Ayoub Pandit while talking to ‘Kashmir Images’ said, “We have been trying our level best to curb the smuggling and at many times our men were attacked by the smugglers who possess heavy arms while our forest guards are weapon-less and are working in very precarious conditions.”
“As of now, there are no complaints of smuggling or green felling but will still check it out,” he added.