Wanton Loot of Forests: Scores Of Trees Cut Down

Four employees suspended, Minister orders inquiry

SRINAGAR:  The wanton loot of forests is unabated in Zachaldara range of Handwara in north Kashmir as timber smugglers chopped off scores of standing trees on Tuesday and dumped them under ground in the shape of logs. 

Police during the raid was surprised to see the status of the compartment number 18 of Wartora, Zachaldara as they found scores of green trees lying on the ground.

Chief Conservator North Kashmir hold forest guards and other employees responsible for the slaughter and has issued orders for their suspension. 

Meanwhile Forest Minister Mian Altaf has ordered an inquiry into the matter. 

Superintendent of Police, Handwara, Tajinder Singh said that they had inputs that smugglers had dumped large quantity of forest timber in compartment number 18 of Wartora Zachaldara of Handwara. “We raided the place and seized forest timber that was dumped illegally by smugglers. We were surprised to see scores of green trees lying on the ground. Smugglers had chopped off these trees surely for the purpose of smuggling. We did our job and accordingly informed the Department of Forest,” SP said.

Forest Department blamed State Forest Corporation (SFC) for this mess and claimed that this compartment was being looked after by SFC officials since 2005. However SFC in a scathing attack on Forest Department said this compartment was the baby of Forest Department and just to mislead the Ministry of Forestry they are making passing the buck.

Range Officer, SFC, Abdul Razaq said that this compartment was supervised by SFC till 2010. “Three years before we had informed DFO, Langete about our inability to supervise this compartment and the truth is that from last three years it is under the supervision of Forest Department. It is absolutely the negligence on part of Forest Department.

When contacted Chief Conservator Forests North Kashmir, Manzoor Ahmed said that he has already dispatched a team comprising of DFO and Joint Conservator to the spot and have been directed to submit their report within two days. “Preliminary report suggests that smugglers were hand in glove with some forest employees and he has suspended four forest employees including a Forest Officer, Forest Guard and two Class IV employees,” he said adding that whosoever will be found involved in this loot will face the music.

Local Sarpanch Abdul Gafar Mir said that he has never come across such a wanton loot of forests in his whole life. “I am an octogenarian and for the first time I have seen smugglers were able to chop-off green trees in such a large number without any fear and hesitation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Forest Minister Mian Altaf said that he will look into the matter and take stern action against the offenders. “Now this matter has come to my notice and I have ordered time bound inquiry,” he said. (CNS)

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