Plunder of Badarwah Forests Apace As Inquiry Fails To Take Off

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SRINAGAR: Along with many such tracts in Jammu and Kashmir, the picturesque Badarwah region too is a victim of rampant illegal felling of forests, allegedly in connivance with government officials.  

Confronted with photographs and video clips of the illicit operation, the principal chief conservator of forests in Jammu and Kashmir, Vinod Ranjan, said that he had ordered an inquiry, but sources maintained that there was no sign of such a probe taking off so far.

According to reports, green trees worth millions of rupees have been illegally chopped off in compartments 18, 19 and from compartment 45 to 66 in the block Puneja, Dugga and Dandi in the Neeru Range of Bhadarwah Forest Division.

The state is losing its green cover fast as forest land has shrunk from 20,230 square kilometers to just 7,590 sq km as per the data furnished by the department of forests last year.

Tariq Hussain, who has been involved in timber extraction from green cedar trees in compartment 66 of the division, is open about how deals are struck.

“I am extracting timber from these trees as we have paid Rs 20,000 per tree to the forest officer and they have asked us to chop as many trees as we want, but only after paying the money,” he alleges.

Authorities, however, said they are vigilant and would prosecute their own officials if they are caught red-handed.

After receiving the still photographs and video clips of the illegal felling, the principal chief conservator of forest in Jammu and Kashmir, Vinod Ranjan said that his department was supposed to keep strict vigil on such activities.

“I assure you if anybody is indulging in illegal illicit green felling we will definitely take action, and I have directed conservator Forest Chenab Circle to initiate an inquiry,” Ranjan said.

But according to reliable sources, as of now, no inquiry has been initiated and illegal felling of green cedar is going on unabated in the Bhadarwah Forest Division.

“Bhadarwah is the lone green area in the world after California where the black cedar is found after California in the world. But the cutting of green cedar and pine trees is going on at an alarming pace without any check. The higher authorities of Forest Department and administration in general are not serious to curb the smugglers which clearly indicate that the higher authorities are also part and parcel of this game,” says environmentalist, Parvez Ahmed Shiekh.

According to environmentalists, the issue is not only about the felling of green cedar, fir and pine trees, it is about the whole eco system which is in danger. These mafias set forest on fire after felling the trees so that all evidence is wiped out. (CNS)

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