Bhaderwah, May 19: Doda Police have seized illegal timber extracted from green cedar trees worth lakhs of rupees beside dozens of fallen trees and hundreds of logs in continuous raids in the Chirala Range of Bhaderwah Forest Division, said an official.
Acting on specific inputs shared by locals and concerns raised by environmentalists about large-scale unabated green felling of cedar trees and smuggling of timber by the mafia from Chirala Range, reportedly in connivance with some forest officials, series of raids were conducted in the areas of Lohar Thava, Sundar Goth, Draman Gad, and Kutta.
The operation was led by SSP Doda Abdul Qayoom along with SHO Thathri Amrit Katoch and sleuths of STF and Police.
During the raid, necessary help was extended by some locals, and the team was able to recover valuable timber extracted illegally from green cedar trees, in huge quantities from the interior of forest areas and at village Lohar Thawa.
“After getting reports about unabated green felling in the Chirala area, a team headed by SHO Thathri raided different locations in the area. During the operation, a huge quantity of timber scants extracted from green cedar trees was seized, beside a large number of fully grown green fallen cedar trees and logs was recovered. Videography and photographs of all the fallen trees and scattered logs were also done so that nobody can tamper with the evidence of illegal felling, “ said SSP Doda Abdul Qayoom.
“Like operation Sanjeevni to curb the drug menace, we have started the campaign to save green gold on mission mode, for which special teams in all the police stations of district Doda have been constituted to carry out the survey of forest area in their respective jurisdiction and submit the damage report,” SSP added. “The report submitted by SHO Thathri suggests that mechanical cutters are being used in the Chirala area for illegal felling and extraction of timber on a commercial scale. DM Doda has completely banned the use of mechanical cutters in district Doda. Those violating the orders, will not only be booked under the forest act and IPC but also for violating DM’s order.”
Meanwhile, dozens of logs and 50 illegally fallen cedar trees were found in compartments 3 and 4 in just a 300-meter radius, besides 15 scants which were hidden inside a Nullah at Sundar Goth by some miscreants were also found during the raid.
Locals of Chirala alleged that they have never witnessed timber smuggling from the area on such a large scale. “It’s like a free for all situation in Chirala forest as dozens of trees are being chopped every day and the timber extracted from them is being smuggled to Bhella, Panchai, and Thathri town,” said Qasim Chechi.
“It’s an organized mafia and nobody here dares to speak against them as they have got patronage of forest officials and some PRI members,” Chechi added.
Environmentalists and social workers are up in arms against the forest officials for their alleged involvement in facilitating timber smuggling, unabated green felling, and forest encroachment on an alarming scale.
“It’s very disturbing and heart-wrenching to witness the devastation of the environment in the form of green felling of fully grown cedar trees. This is very unfortunate to know that some forest officials are hand-in-glove with the mafia in looting precious wealth,” said Kamran Khan, an environmentalist, and a journalist.
“Such massive damage is not possible without the involvement of forest officials. There should be a high-level inquiry against the erring officials. Hope LG will himself take cognizance into this serious matter,” Khan added.
It is pertinent to mention here that geologists and soil conservationists have more recently held unabated deforestation in Chenab Circle responsible for continuous landslides, sinking of land, and massive soil erosion and have warned that large-scale deforestation could cause irreparable loss to the region.