SHOPIAN: At least five large trees have been chopped by unknown persons in Hirpora wildlife division in the intervening night of October 9 and 10, sources said, adding that lower rung officers of Wildlife department were caught damaging the evidences by Forest Protection Force.
Reliable sources from the departments told Kashmir Reader that the incident took place at Khachel-Maidan (compartment RB-7) of Hirpora forests which is considered heart of Hirpora wildlife sanctuary. They said that one of the chopped trees is still lying there.
The sources said that when a team of Forest Protection Force reached the site on October 11 they found some low rank employees ‘destroying the evidences of chopped trees’.
An officer wishing not to be named said that it wasn’t clear if the employees were involved in timber smuggling, “but there is no doubt that they were involved in negligence of their duties”.
Another official seconded that the concerned Wildlife employees were damaging evidences of tree chopping to “save themselves from cases and suspension because of negligence of duties”.
Block Officer, Wildlife department, Muhammad Amin told Kashmir Reader that he was on night patrolling till 10 pm with a single employee accompanying him.
“The incident has taken place in dead of night,” he said adding that monitoring the huge range of 341 square kilometres ) was beyond their capabilities, as they are only four officials.
Range Officer, Wildlife, for the concerned area, Dildar Ahmad, told Kashmir Reader that he was out of station and that he has contacted the officers about the incident.
“I am visiting the site in coming days and will forward the report of the incident with my department very soon,” he said adding that he can’t speak more on the issue without checking it himself.
Deputy Director Forest Protection Force Shopian/Pulwama, Munier Ahmad told Kashmir Reader that he has forwarded the report to higher authorities for action.
“I can’t say employees of wildlife are involved in this but there was negligence of duty by them as well as they didn’t inform us about the incident,” he said while expressing ignorance about employees of Wildlife being caught red-handed by his team of officers.
“We wrote a report to Wildlife warden Shopian/Pulwama, divisional forest officer and joint director of forest protection department for action and the ball is now in their court, “he said adding that they have no jurisdiction to initiate any action further.
The Hirpora wildlife sanctuary is already under huge threat due to the construction of Mughal road and laying of massive power transmission power lines through its heart.
The sanctuary home to more than a dozen endangered wild animals including Himalayan Markhor which according to sources are about to perish if necessary steps were not taken.
Besides animals, the sanctuary is also known for dozens of medicinal plants including Jogi-Badshah, a medicinal plant said to cure heart diseases.