Kupwara: Locals living near the forest range of different compartments from 10 to 21 A and B number 79 of Kamraj Forest Division of frontier district Kupwara Wednesday alleged that a nexus between the jungle smugglers and Forest Department officials is the source of destruction of forest wealth.
A delegation from different hamlets of Kupwara said that during night hours forest smugglers in their vehicles appear in several areas with a sole purpose to loot the green gold. The smugglers along with labourers cut down trees illegally and load them in vehicles. The loot continues in areas including Kandi, Chek Natnusa, Trachh, Wudpora, Hardan, Chowgal and Kulangam areas.
If you visit the compartment number 21 A and B, you will not find a single standing tree there. The smugglers in league with forest officials have cleared this compartment from all the trees. Same is the case with the compartments from 10 to 20, the delegation told CNS adding that due to illegal activity of the smugglers during night hours they are unable to sleep.
According to the locals, a few days back Forest Protection team led by deputy director seized a loaded Ashoka Leyland vehicle loaded with illegal timber that was on way from Kandi to Natnusa. The smugglers greased the palms of the officials and nobody touched them. The team didnt bother to inform anyone as they are in league with forest smugglers and the Forest officials provide them ample opportunity to loot the green gold, they said.
As per locals, the smugglers fell green trees, particularly during night hours, and sometimes even in the broad daylight, and ferry the timber in vehicles for sale in the adjoining villages particularly in Kulangam and Chogal.
The thick forests here are fast depleting. Notorious smugglers use vehicles while lesser known jungle smugglers ferry the timber on horse-backs and sometimes on their shoulders and cross several villages without any inhibition. They later sell the timber in various parts of the district and other areas of the Valley, the locals said.
The locals alleged that there is a nexus between smugglers and the forest department employees and that is why things are happening under their nose. The locals appealed Forest Minister Chowdary Lal Singh to initiate action against those helping the smugglers. We request the Minister to visit these compartments. He will himself realize what the forest officials are up to, they said.
In next few years, we wont see forest cover in the area if immediate measures are not taken, they said adding that that one feels forest cover is thick while looking from the roadside but once one makes his entry into compartment, things become murkier.
A few decades back there were massive forests and their thick vegetation cover over the surface but in recent years, the vegetation is on the verge of depletion. Once the large expanse of rich, dense and green sylvan groves of deodar (Cedrus deodara), kail (Pinus wallichiana), fir (Abies pindrow) and chir (Pinus roxburghii) of frontier district had been compared with the famous Black Forests of Germany. But nowadays these forests have lost their eminence. Heavy deforestation in these areas has resulted into multidimensional ecological and environmental crisis such as denudation, sheet, rill and gully erosion, landslides, flash floods and change of climate. The hydrological cycle has also totally changed. Most of the springs in the hilly region have become dried, the locals said.
Divisional Forest Officer Muhammad Ayoub Sheikh said that a month back they seized illegal timber and initiated legal action against the culprit. A forest protection force camp looked after by our Deputy Director is in the middle of a compartment and there is no room for a smuggler to loot the green gold, he said. (CNS)
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