Notwithstanding the official claims of preserving forests, the forest department has failed to act against smugglers who are cutting down trees for timber in the forests of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.
Residents of Baramulla said at a time when the government is planting trees in the district, the department has grossly failed to act against the smugglers who are looting green gold in daylight.
They said in the Compartment number 14 and 15 in Gantmulla, which falls under the jurisdiction of Jhelum Valley Division, Baramulla smugglers are seen cutting down trees.
“The smugglers are wandering in forests with saws and axes. They are cutting down trees openly from the past few weeks which is very unfortunate,” a resident of Gantmulla area told Rising Kashmir.
He accused the officials of the forest division of being “hand-in-glue” with the timber smugglers.
The inhabitant said the chopping of trees is posing threats to the forest flora and fauna evoking widespread resentment from the locals.
A team of Rising Kashmir visited Gantmulla forests and saw residents in possession of fresh timber.
“The officials of the department are responsible for violating norms and are hand- in-glove with the smugglers. They have made huge money. It is a mafia running here,” said the resident.
Expressing resentment against cutting down of trees, the residents demanded that the forest department must depute teams to search residential houses.
Talking to Rising Kashmir, Conservator north Kashmir, Irfan Rasool admitted that there are smugglers who damage trees assuring they will take timely action.
“There is no deforestation. There may be damage to one or two trees. Smugglers are there and they damage forests. We will enquire about the matter and will take strict action against the erring people,” he said.
The conservator said they will send their teams to the area and will register FIR in case any person is found guilty.
“We have registered hundreds of FIRs against smugglers over the years in entire north Kashmir. We have also arrested some people under the Public Safety Act (PSA),” he said.
Rasool said they also send their teams to forest areas in order to keep vigil on any kind of damage to the forests, a claim refuted by the locals.