Bandipora, March 23: The large-scale cutting of forest flora in various ranges of North Kashmir's Bandipora district has been continuing uninterrupted, locals alleged.
The locals informed Rising Kashmir that the rampant, illegal cutting of forest trees in Compartment seven of the Bandipora forest range can cause significant damage to the environment.
Furthermore, they stated that smugglers are taking advantage of the darkness to continue their illicit activities despite the government's efforts to clamp down on it.
The locals also alleged that a forest mafia, in collaboration with forest department personnel, is plundering the green gold, as those in power are acting mute spectators.
The people in positions of power are not concerned and are allowing looters to carry out their activities unchecked, while some Forest employees are even profiting from the illicit money generated by the mafia through unlawful practices,” they stated.
The video that was shared widely on social media revealed that a large number of trees were felled in certain parts of the Bandipora forests, and to conceal the stumps of the cut trees, the smugglers set them on fire, thus increasing the likelihood of forest fires in those areas.
The environmentalists have also voiced concern in light of the pictures and videos circulating on social media that depict smugglers engaging in mass deforestation in Bandipora.
District Forest Officer Bandipora, Mudasir Mehmood told Rising Kashmir that even though some hotspots have been identified as having received reports of illegal forest tree-cutting, the Bandipora forest division has been the least affected.
He said that, in addition to apprehending the main smuggler and confiscating his vehicle, they had also identified other smugglers and forest personnel implicated in the crime.
To control the green gold loot, Bandipora forest department has also taken several steps including establishment of Control room and all forest check posts have been made operational, DFO Bandipora said adding that within the week staff deputed at hotspot zones will be reshuffled.