Rs 10205 lakhs lost in illegal felling, smuggling of costly trees

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New Delhi, Mar 2 (UNI) Illegal felling and smuggling of rare and costly trees like sandalwood and teak during 2004-06 resulted in a whopping loss of Rs 10205 lakhs to the country, according to an estimate of the Environment and Forests Ministry.

A ministry official, however, denied that large-scale illegal felling and smuggling of costly trees had been reported from different parts of the country.

But he was quick to point out that incidents of illicit felling and smuggling were not unusual either, as was evident from details in this regard furnished by the State/UT Governments and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI).

Quoting various reports, the official said that during last three years (2005-07), a total of 2666 sandalwood tress were illegally felled in Kerala while Karnataka reported 881 cases of smuggling of sandalwood involving a quantity of 35,299 kg.

Further, Maharashtra reported a loss of 1404 number of sandalwood trees in illegal felling while there were a total of 253 cases of smuggling of sandalwood (20.739 tonnes) in Tamil Nadu during the period.

In the year 2006-07, cases were registered with regard to import of 3 consignments of sandalwood. In these cases 177.660 MTs of sandalwood valued at Rs. 1776.60 lakhs was seized.

As regards illegal felling of Sal and teak tree for three years (2003-04, 2004-05 and 2005-06), Andhra Pradesh suffered a loss of 8208.89 cubic meters (Rs 1633.98 lakh), Assam 5022 cubic meters (Rs 311.62 lakh), Chhattisgarh 58380 cubic meters (Rs 1287.81 lakh) and Gujarat 13586 cubic meters (Rs 1360.74 lakh).

The losses for Karanataka were pegged at 6184 cubic meters (Rs 513.76 lakh), Himachal Pradesh 407 cubic meters (Rs 4.96 lakh) and Maharashtra 268088 cubic meters (Rs 2251.12 lakh).

Haryana, West Bengal, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand were among the other states which reported illegal felling/smuggling of sal and teak trees.

About the steps being taken for the protection and management of forests, he said it was primarily the responsibility of the State/UT Governments. The measures in this regard include legal provisions like the Indian Forest Act, 1927; The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, The Forest Conservation Act, 1980; and The Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Under the Centrally-sponsored Integrated Forest Protection Scheme, funds are provided to states and Union Territories primarily for strengthening of infrastructure for protection of forests from illicit felling, fires and encroachments.

Patrolling of the area, creation of check posts and barriers, mechanism of transit permit for movement of forest produce, formation of flying squads, mobile protection units and vigilance parties for regular inspection and survey and demarcation of forest areas, are among the other measures.

Efforts are also made to involve local communities through formulation of Joint Forest Management Committees while meetings of the officials of the border states are held to strengthen inter-state protection mechanism.

UNI/SKS MSJ HT1448

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