The failure of officials to curb timber smuggling in North Kashmir’s Kupwara District has encouraged smugglers to cut down the prized timber in many compartments of Sogam Kupwara range.
Reliable sources told KNS that heavy damage is caused by jungle smugglers to the green treasure in forest range Sogam including compartment number 17, 18, 19, 21,25,28,27 SL by smugglers. “There is no check to the same by the authorities as the forest officials are in close nexus with smugglers,” sources in the forest department said.
Sources revealed that officials of forest department including Range Officer, Forester, and some Forest Guards of Sogam are hand-in—glow with smugglers thereby facilitating the smugglers to devastate the forests of these compartments.
“Timber is being ferried to the market by smugglers allegedly in connivance with these officials, although the Forest officials and the Forest Protection Force (FPF) personnel catch smugglers in various areas but set them free allegedly after taking bribe.
Sources further revealed that some forest employees have encroached over good chunk of land in the Compartment number 28 in village Valakul Sogam. “On November 4, 2013 the forest officials utilize the services of JCB to plain the forest land with a purpose to convert it into commercial land. Such a practice can be a lead for other villagers to encroach the forest land if not checked at earliest,” sources added.
“Higher authorities are mute spectators to the plunder of the green gold. Influential people of the area devastate the forests in connivance with officials. They (officials) receive their share,” sources said.
However concerned District Forest Officer (DFO), Munshi Iqbal when contacted told KNS that no felling of trees is going on in the area. “Our men seized timber and arrested several culprits in the past few months added that if any official of the department is found involved, he will be dealt sternly. I assure you that I will look into the complaints of deforestation as well.”
Meanwhile range officer deny these claims and said that they have been successful in stopping the loot of green gold in the area to a large extent. Pertinently Kupwara Police on September last year had admitted that some of the lower rung Forest officials have allegedly given a free hand to the timber smugglers to plunder the green gold and had register around 50 case against timber smugglers involved in the act.