Rs 100 Crore Worth Timber Rots Due To Official ‘Apathy’

Srinagar: Signifying the messy state of affairs in the forest department and the State Forest Corporation (SFC), thousands of timber logs worth Rs 100 crores have been left to decay in several forest ranges across Budgam district depriving people of their sanctioned share of timber for the past many months.

The given inordinate delay by the SFC has caused an impairing financial damage to the state exchequer, sources told Kashmir Observer Tuesday. The issue, they said, has been compounded by the Forest Department followed by SFC’s failure to lift the naturally fallen trees in Budgam’s Pir Panjal range, creating scarcity of the timber in the region.

Despite the growing demand, the thousands of feet of fallen trees in the Raithan Forest Range in Yusmarg, Sukhnaag Forest Range and Doodhganga Forest Range in Doodhpathri, were not lifted ,auctioned and were subsequently dumped in these three forest ranges instead.

“The trees had been uprooted during a severe wind storm on 15th and 16th June that had wreaked havoc in Raithan, Doodhganga and Sukhnaag forest ranges. The number of damaged trees is more than twenty thousand,” noted social activist, Dr Raja Muzaffar told Kashmir Observer.

“About ninety percent of this fallen timber is Kail, Budloo, Fur and Kairu that had been in the forest for more than 100 years,” he said.

He further added that out of the 20,000 fallen timber in these three forest ranges, most of the damaged wood has already started to decompose due to delay in its lifting and putting it up for sale.

“I’ve personally counted around 2500 fallen timbers that are on the verge of decomposition.” Muzaffar said.

A senior official from SFC told Kashmir Observer that they don’t have enough skilled staff and required transport facilities to lift the trees from these forests.

“It won’t be possible to lift this fallen timber from forests until the Forest Department and SFC provides us with the required transport and equipment. Until, the required machinery is made available, also leading to further decomposition of the dumped timber,” he said.

As per locals, Budgam district has been going through an extreme scarcity of the fallen timber wood that is used for several basic necessities including construction of houses.

“We fail to understand this absurd logic of the officials of the Forest department and the SFC. They prefer to rot the timber in forests rather than providing it to needy consumers. There’s an extreme scarcity of Timber in the district but the department has no interest in reaching out to the needy people,” Shoaib Mushtaq, a resident of Budgam told Kashmir Observer.

He further added, “Several months ago sixty cubic feet of timber was sanctioned to me for construction of my house. Since then I have been running from pillar to post to get timber from the SFC. Ironically the timber is rotting in forests and people are being denied their allotted share.”

Like Shoaib scores of people have been awaiting release of timber.

“Some officials have lifted only a limited cubic feet of timber and provided that to their relatives and those who grease their palms while common people are made to suffer. I have been waiting for my turn to get timber for the past one year but to no avail,” lamented Mukhtiyar Ahmed of Budgam town.

“Such irresponsibility of the officials coerces one to buy illicit Timber from the Timber smugglers in the region,” he added.

As per experts, if the fallen timber continues to remain dumped in the forest ranges, the ecological hazards could augment at a higher rate due to the nomadic activities to burn timber trees in order to produce charcoal.

“Such activities could lead to a massive fire in the forest that may not be possible to extinguish for days.” Muzaffar said.

Talking to Kashmir Observer, DFO Pir Panjal Forest Division, Ashraf Kattoo said, “There are more than 10 lakh CFT in these three ranges, so how is it possible to extract such a huge amount of cft in just 2 months. There’s a proper procedure to follow and we’re already following that. Our work was to mark these trees and we’ve already done that.”

He further added, “Now, it’s SFC’s job to extract these trees.”

Clearing the growing confusion over the issue, DFO SFC Budgam, Parvaiz Ahmed said that the SFC has already generated a rate list of the fallen timbers soon after the Forest Department forwarded their list to the Chief Conservator of Forests.

“The extraction process may take upto a year given coming winter and the official process that finalizes the extraction of the naturally fallen trees,” he said.

“Once, the administration clarifies the extraction process, the SFC will extract these fallen timbers, put out a tender in the public domain and sell it,” he added.

Ahmed also acknowledged the public grievances and said that they too need to understand that there’s a proper procedure that the department has to follow in order to maintain accountability.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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