Loot of Green Gold?
In my previous piece I had raised serious concerns about illegal constructions, axing of chinar & plunder of Karewa's under the garb of ongoing unrest. It is now reported that timber smugglers who had become inactive from last several years are nowadays busy with loot of "Green Gold " across Kashmir. Green Deodars, Kail and Fir trees are being felled by organized gangs and this has to be a matter of serious concern for all of us. As reported by GK reporter Ejaz ul Haq Bhat, loot of green gold goes unabated in Bandipora District. It is reported that timber smugglers axe young and old Pinus trees mostly during the night hours in the adjacent forest areas and subsequently smuggle the timber in the local villages. The smugglers and other people associated with this dirty game thus take undue advantage of the present crises. Because of continuous shutdown & curfew, the Forest officers hardly attend their official duties, except some lower rung Forest officials, nobody is seen present in their Forest blocks and smugglers take advantage of this situation and cause severe damage to the Forest wealth. It is reported that in many places the officials of Forest department are in hand and glove with the timber mafia. On July 28th Greater Kashmir reported that Kail trees, locally called Kairoo, in compartment numbers 109 and 110 which, comes under the jurisdiction of Forest Range Ajas, district Bandipora, have been almost completely chopped off. It is reported that trees are being axed in Arin forest belt of the same district, in-spite of the fact that matter was already brought into the notice of local authorities. The illegal practice is not coming to halt and instead more and more people other than organized gangs of timber smugglers are now getting involved in this illegal practice. Reports from Kupwara also say that timber smuggling is going on unabated in various parts of this North Kashmir district and Forest department hardly acts against these criminals. Hundreds of Deodar , Fir and Kail trees have been chopped off in Rajwar, Ramhal, Nutnusa, Check, Kandi and adjoining areas from last 10 to 12 days. "Areas like Rajwar , Ramhal are having very thick forest cover and if the authorities won't act against the timber smugglers , this will lead to a disaster " said Ghulam Nabi a retired Forest officer who has served in Kupwara for several years.
I still remember Arif Shafi Wani, senior journalist with Greater Kashmir, had published a detailed report on July 26th 2010 when similar loot and plunder was going on in the forests of Pir Panchal division (PP division) Budgam. Actually during that time I along with my friends had seen with our eyes , how the timber was being looted from Tosamaidan forests using horses and mules. During that time also some vested interested people had taken undue advantage of the unrest. But I must acknowledge the fact that the then Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Mr Ghulam Hassan Bhat who was posted in PP division Budgam that time acted swiftly and controlled that open loot of Forests. During Mr Bhat's tenure in PP division Budgam the timber smuggling was completely brought under control right from Tosamaidan to Yusmarg forest belt. In-fact we also continuously sought details of dossiers prepared against notorious timber smugglers using Right to Information (RTI) and that had also created a pressure on the forest and district administration . Several timber smugglers were booked under Public Safety Act (PSA) during 2010, 2011 and 2012 in Budgam. Don't we have similar forest officers in the department who can take up this challenge now ? It is the moral responsibility of resistance leaders that they must also appeal people to stay away from looting Forests and forest wealth during these crisis, otherwise we will have to repent later-on.