Amid prevailing aftermath flood situation, the timber smuggling is going on unabated at Rajwar Range in North Kashmir’s Handwara town with concerned authorities turning blind eye towards the matter.
Locals told CNS that the smugglers not only fell green trees during the broad daylight and ferry them on horses for sale in the adjoining villages but they in league with forest employees also managed to loot hundreds of walnut trees in Compartment number 69 near Shehlal area of Handwara town. “The timber smugglers here are felling the green gold and smuggling it in nexus with the forest officials to different areas without any inhibitions. Smugglers have turned huge forest area into barren land in Rajwara forests including compartments 1 to 6, 13,14,21,22 and 64,” they said and alleged that “instead of curbing chopping of tress, the officers and officials are boosting the illegal trade.”
“The officials of Forest department and Forest Protection Force, are in complete know how about the cutting of trees. However, they are not taking any stringent action against the smugglers and are giving them free hand,” the residents of the area told CNS adding that the vehicles carrying illicit timber cross the check points established by the Forest department with much ease.
They said that the irony is that first forest employees sold nuts to a fruit merchant and after that they chopped all but 69 walnut trees and handed them over to the timber smugglers,” they alleged.
Chief Conservator North Kashmir Mian Javid Hanif told CNS that he would look into the matter while Deputy Director Forest Protection Force Wasim Ahmed said that from past week his team recovered huge quantity of illicit timber from the possession of smugglers. He said that operation against the timber smugglers is going on in the area.
Meanwhile, Range Officer Rajwar, Muhammad Iqbal Wani told CNS that hundreds of walnut trees chopped in Shehlal area is not the property of Forest Department. He added that department takes action whenever it receives reports about timber smuggling in the Range.