Altaf talks tough against smugglers, encroachers
GK NEWS NETWORK
Srinagar, Nov 16: Talking tough against timber smugglers and land encroachers, Minister for Forests and Environment, Mian Altaf Ahmad, Wednesday said the menace has been brought under control in notorious forest divisions of the Valley.
“A few years back there was writ of smugglers in Pir Panjal, Shopian, Rafiabad and Sindh forest divisions. However, now there is writ of the government as smuggling and forest land encroachment has been brought under control,” Altaf said while addressing a press conference here.
He said that graph of smuggling and forest land encroachment has declined manifold in the last two years.
“Forest area under thousands of kanals had been wiped out by the smugglers. But now I can say with authority that the problem has been controlled to a large extent,” he said.
However, the minister admitted that the problem hasn’t been entirely solved yet. “We are trying our best to take back the encroached land which is 183 sq kms. Government, opposition, media and civil society have to play a role and work together to get back the encroached land,” Altaf said.
He warned that forest officials found involved in helping smugglers will be dealt with an iron fist. “When I took over, some forest officials were in nexus with the smugglers. We imposed penalty on them and transferred them to remote areas. In future also we will do the same if such complaints are there,” he asserted.
However, Altaf said that media sometimes depicts that smuggling is happening in some areas which is not a fact. “Actually smugglers have cut the trees long back and roots are still there. At some places, to allow road construction forest land is diverted under proper rules. The trees have to be cut in those areas. But later under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) trees are planted to compensate the losses,” he added.
The Minister revealed that during 2009-10, more than 60 vehicles and 822 horses used in smuggling were seized. “Similarly, in 2010-11, 68 vehicles and 508 horses were seized while this year 26 vehicles and 290 horses have been seized,” he said.
On the number of smugglers booked under Public Safety Act, Altaf said that 64 were slapped PSA in 2009-10 and 28 in 2010-11.”
Asked whether there were any complaints of security forces personnel being involved in timber smuggling, the Minister said, “No such complaints have been received in my tenure. There might have been such complaints in the past, but there is no such issue now.”
He said that there was some complaint in Tosemadain area which was taken up with the Army higher ups.
To a question on land encroachment in Gulmarg, the Minister said, “Basic work has to be done by the Gulmarg Development Authority. We are investigating the matter and waiting for the report. Actually there is need of proper demarcation in Gulmarg so that proper picture will emerge.”
To curb the menace of timber allotments on fake names, the Minister said a team has been constituted to monitor genuine applicants in C-zones. “After verification in south forest zone, 1400 fake sanctions were cancelled,” he said.
Altaf said that this year 43 lakh cft timber is being imported to meet the ever-growing demand. “From 23 lakh cft in 2009, this year 43 lakhs cft will be imported. Due to Supreme Court order, green felling has been banned and to meet the demand timber is being imported,” he added.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 16 Nov 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 16 Nov 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 17 Nov 2011 00:00:00 IST
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