Timber smuggling on rise in Baramulla forests

A view of Bosniya forest area in Baramulla district. -Excelsior/Aabid Nabi
A view of Bosniya forest area in Baramulla district. -Excelsior/Aabid Nabi

Waseem Ahmad

SRINAGAR, Sept 11: Timber smugglers in Bosniya, Khadniyar block of North Kashmir’s Baramulla district are having a free hand as unabated plundering of green gold in the forests went unchecked.
Locals living near compartment numbers 2 and 3 that fall under Jhelum Valley (JV) Forest Divisions while accusing forest officials of being hand-in-glove with the timber smugglers said that the trees are being cut on a large scale and the forest officials are acting as mute spectators.
“There is a large scale cutting of trees in the forest. Timber smugglers are cutting trees in broad daylight and no one is able to stop them. There is a nexus between forest officials and timber smugglers and they are letting everything to happen,” Abdul Rehman, a local said.
The locals said that hundreds of horses laden with wood logs can be seen descending from the upper reaches of the forest in broadday light in connivance with the Forest officials. “The smugglers are ferrying the smuggled timber on horses and one can see the beeline of horses loaded with timber in the wee hours but this menace goes unchecked. The illegal timber trade goes right under the nose of forest authorities,” Abdul Ahad, another resident said.
Sources in the Forest department said some officers were hand in glove with the smugglers.
Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Mukhtar Ahmad while admitting that the timber smuggling is going on in the forest division said they were trying their best to stop the smuggling and book the smugglers. “Almost 70% of the division is under my control and we are doing our best to stop the smuggling. The timber smuggling is going on but it is the upper reaches of the forests where most of the smuggling takes place and the upper reaches of the forest division fall under the Wildlife department.. They should strike very heavily there to stop the timber smuggling,” he said, adding: “All the departments including Wildlife, Forest, Forest Protection Force and other security agencies should come together to stop the smuggling.”
Asked about the appointment of Territorial Range Officer, he said the appointment is being made by the administration and “we are nobody to challenge the Government order”. “He has been transferred by the Government from Social Forestry Department and he is a very hardworking person. He is a dedicated officer and the allegations are baseless,” he said.