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 he has asked us to chop as many trees as we could.”
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, Vinod Ranjan assured action against people involved in the illegal trade.
“The forest department is supposed to keep strict watch on these activities and I assure you if anybody is indulging in illegal green felling, we will definitely take action, and I have directed conservator Forest Chenab Circle to initiate an inquiry,” Ranjan told this citizen journalist .
As of now, no inquiry has been initiated and illegal felling of green cedar is going on unabated in Bhaderwah forest division. Bhadarwah, according to environmentalists, is the lone green area of Jammu region where black cedar is found. California is the only other place in the world where black cedar is found.
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 from time to time informed by the media persons (who conducted sting operation in the dangerous forest belts), but all seems to have fell on the deaf ears. This clearly indicates that the higher authorities are also involved in this illegal trade,” said environmentalist Pervaiz Ahmed Shaikh said.
According to the environmentalists, the issue is not only about the felling of green cedar, fir and pine trees; it is about the whole ecosystem, which is in danger. These mafias set forest on fire after felling the trees so that all clues regarding their illicit business 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.
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