Monday, February 4, 2013

Large-scale felling of trees by timber mafias in connivance with forest officials continues in Bhadarwah

BHADERWAH:  Illegal large-scale felling of trees in Bhadarwah tehsil of Jammu & Kashmir continues in connivance with forest officials.  Famous for its snow peaks and lush green forests Jammu and Kashmir gets most of it's revenue from forest wealth.
Located at a height of 6,500 feet, the Bhaderwah region of Doda is a picturesque valley, with thick coniferous forests on all sides but illegal deforestation by timber mafia is depleting the forest cover.  The illegal felling of green Deodar and pine trees despite Supreme Court ban is fast depriving Jammu and Kashmir of its precious forest wealth. Green trees worth millions have been illegally chopped off in compartments no. 18, 19 and from compartment no. 45 to 66 in the block Puneja, Dugga and Dandi in Neeru Range of Bhadarwah Forest Division.

The state is losing its green sheen fast as the forest land has shrunk from 20,230 sq km to just 7,590 sq km as per data furnished by the state Department of Forests earlier this year.  An illegal tree feller Tariq Hussain , who was extracting timber from green Cedar trees in compartment no 66 of Neeru range in Bhadarwah Forest Division said, “ I am extracting timber from these trees as we have paid Rs 20,000 per tree to the forest officer and has asked us to chop as many trees but only after paying the money”.

The authorities, however, said they are vigilant and would prosecute their own officials if they are caught red handed. Sensing the sensitivity of the issue after receiving the still photographs and video clips of the illegal felling, Principal Chief Conservator Forest J&K Govt.Vinod Ranjan  is on the defensive.
"The forest department is supposed to keep strict watch on these activities and 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," said PCCF Vinod Ranjan.
As of now no inquiry has been initiated and illegal felling of green cedar is going on unabated in Bhadarwah Forest Division. “Bhadarwah is the lone green area of Jammu region where 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 were time to time informed by the media persons through conducting sting operation in the dangerous forest belts but all seems to be gone to the deaf ears which clearly indicate that the higher authorities are also involved in share with forest mafias and corrupt forest official” said environmentalist Pervaiz Ahmed Shaikh.

According to the 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 afire after felling the trees so that all clues regarding it are wiped up. 

Senior journalist and social activist, Tahir Nadeem Khan said that the state chief minister should learn lessons from the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav to save and protect the forest and environment by taking action against the corrupt officials responsible for illegal deforestation.
Akhilesh Yadav reportedly suspended 13 employees of forest department, including officers, for illegal felling of trees in Bahraich division on January 18th. Between March and December 2012, at least 40 forest employees were suspended for failing to check illegal cutting of trees. Same plan of action is needed in Jammu and Kashmir against corrupt forest officials in order to save the precious green wealth of the state, Khan added.( mANSOOR Qadir)

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