J-K Govt to arm forest protection guards to check smuggling

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Jammu, Jan 31 (PTI) Cracking its whip on timber smugglers,the Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to arm its forestprotection force, Forests Minister Mian Altaf today said.

"We are arming Forest Protection Force (FPF) men in themost critical forest sectors of Pir Panchal ranges and Shopianin Kashmir Valley to deal with timber smuggling and felling ofgreen trees," he told reporters here.

He said Pir Panchal ranges and Shopian belt were the mostcritical areas in terms of timber smuggling, felling of greentrees and encroachments.

"We have to procure new weapons and we have alreadypurchased some of them. These are lying with the HomeDepartment," he said, adding in the first phase the weaponswould be used in these two sectors.

"FPF men would be armed in next 10-15 days", Altaf said.

On encroachments on forest land in the state, he said14,359 hectares have been encroached.

However, there has been no fresh encroachment, he said,adding encroachments in Shopian, Sidhra, Budgam and otherplaces have been removed and the land demarcated.

To a question about construction of roads and tunnelsunder Prime Minister Grameen Sadak Yojna in the forest belt,he said no further construction would be allowed.

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