The forests in Ganderbal district have witnessed a plunder by the timber smugglers after the Valley was hit by COVID-19 pandemic.
Sources said that taking advantage of the ongoing lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, timber smugglers in Ganderbal district were having a “field day”.
For the past few months, there has been a rampant felling of trees in different forest ranges including Sindh Forest Range and Mansbal Forest Range of Kangan and Ganderbal.
On several occasions, the teams of Forest Protection Force (FPF) and employees of Sindh Forest Division, Ganderbal have seized illicit timber from different areas.
An FPF team and the Forest department seized around 50 cft of illicit timber near Panzin, Kangan that was being transported in a cab from Manasbal range last month. The FPF team also seized around 85 cft of illicit timber cut from Compartment No 46 in Kulan area of Gund a week ago.
The forest team recovered and seized 48 cft of illicit timber from Mammar, Wudder area of Sindh Forest Range, Kangan and 24 cfts more from Kullan on Tuesday.
Locals said the Forest department had struggled to put effective tree-protection mechanisms in place.
The sources said that smugglers burn the tree stumps to give an impression that the trees had been cut long ago and were old.
The locals blamed the authorities for the loot of green gold.
“Due to the ongoing lockdown, Police and forest guards are not able to guard the forests properly and smugglers are continuing unabated loot of forests,” a local said and alleged the field staff of being “hand-in-glove” with the timber smugglers.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Sindh Forest Division, Ganderbal, Owais Mir said that during the past month there had been a few instances where timber was seized either by the FPF personnel or Forest department’s field staff.
“Our field staff is on the ground monitoring and keeping a vigil on the forests,” he said and promised that the department would take tough action against the miscreants involved in illegal felling of trees.