Amid plantation drives, timber smuggling ‘unabated’ in Baramulla

Amid plantation drives, timber smuggling ‘unabated’ in Baramulla
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Baramulla: While the Forest department is organizing plantation drives in the district, the loot of green gold continues unabated in Rafiabad forest range and other areas the district.
Local sources said that timber smugglers chop off green trees in upper belt of Rafiabad in compartment numbers 20, 42 and others.
They said smugglers are chopping green trees in broad day light and transporting it to Rafiabad, Sopore and Baramulla.
Forest employees are either failing in stopping the loot, or hand in glove with the smugglers, they said.
A group of villagers from Kutran Naribal, wishing not to be named, alleged that employees posted in the area are giving safe passage to the smugglers while some other smugglers are using other routes.
After chopping green conifer trees, smugglers are burning the tree branches and bases to make it look old, they said.
The most affected areas in this forest range are Chatipashi, Bagadona, Daryan, Patribal and Kholan, which are close to Kutran Naribal villages.
Locals said that while on one hand forest department was organising plantation driver, on other hand officials are directly or indirectly involved in the smuggling.
They said that situation is not different in other areas like Hajibal, Khadniyar, Zahampora, Boniyar, Narvaw, Tangmarg and Gulmarg forest ranges.
Few days ago, locals alleged, four horses loaded with timber were confiscated in the area but after few days the horses were back with their owners while there was no information of recovered timber in the official files.
In past year, a number of smugglers have been arrested by forest protection force and police and seized horses and vehicles used by them. Locals alleged that most of the arrested and their confiscated have been released.
Divisional Forest Officer Langate, Mohammad Ayoub Pandith denied allegations of wanton smuggling.
“Recently we have appointed a new block officer (Forester) in the area, and he is very strict, and we have no reports of smuggling, but we will see,” Pandith said.