Pulwama/Shopian: During last four years the unabated timber smuggling in various forest compartments of Pulwama, Shopian districts has taken a heavy toll on the green gold.
According to locals the smuggling of timber continues unabated in Sangarwani, block of Romshi range, Abhama, Chowan and Anderwali of Shopian and Pulwama districts of southern Kashmir.
In Sangarwani block the massive deforestation has been witnessed in compartment nos. RI 23, 24 and 26. Locals living near these compartments alleged a nexus between the smugglers and forest department officials who as per locals are supporting the smugglers to chop off the trees in the area for their benefits.
They alleged that though the local forest officials are well aware about the matter “but they are reluctant to act.”
“Due to callous attitude of the forest department, the smugglers are roaming freely in the area. They enter the forest compartments without any hindrance and loot the timber. The smugglers transport the timber to other parts of the Valley. People at various places have also encroached upon the forest land and have raised houses and grown apple trees on it,” locals alleged.
“Some 30 years before the forests of Pulwama-Shopian and Budgam were so dense that one could not dare to walk alone. But now the forest cover is thin,” locals said.
The forests through famous tourist destination Yousmarg “have been denuded of the trees at various places. The condition of the forests through famous Pakherpora shrine is pathetic,” said Manzoor Ahmed Dar, a resident of Pakherpora.
Many blamed the environmental degradation for the loss of the forest cover. A source in the forest department blamed the 2014 floods and 2016 political turmoil for devastation of the forests.
“Due to the unavoidable circumstances, the police and forest guards could not properly guard the forests and the smugglers enjoyed a field day,” he said.
He said from time to time the forest department “has been receiving complaints of forest smuggling from these areas. But some unscrupulous officials accept the bribe from the smugglers on the spot and let them go,” the source said.
Locals from the areas rued the official apathy and appealed to the government to take effective measures against the forest smuggling.
The locals also appealed to the concerned forest officials to begin afforestation in the affected areas.
The officials at divisional forest office Pulwama-Shopian admitted the massive smuggling in the forest areas of Shopian-Pulwama during past many years.
Talking to Greater Kashmir they said the smugglers have denuded the forests and the department “is helpless before them.”
“The situation in Kashmir is pretty challenging but our employees risk their lives to control the forest smuggling. With our stern efforts we have managed to control the smuggling to a large scale,” said officials.