Action against timber smugglers gets tougher

Indicating the seriousness with which the Forest Department took up the raids, officials said festival holidays for its frontline staff were cancelled so that there was no let-up in the pressure.

By Author  |  Published: 12th Jan 2019  9:59 pm
smugglers
Forest department officials load a tractor trailer with seized logs from illegally felled trees in Ichoda division in Adilabad district on Saturday

Hyderabad: The Telangana Forest and Police departments, along with district administrations, plan to book at least 15 habitual timber smugglers under the PD Act, in a no-holds-barred action to curb illegal felling of trees and smuggling of wood from the State’s forests.

Indicating the seriousness with which the Forest Department took up the raids, officials said festival holidays for its frontline staff were cancelled so that there was no let-up in the pressure. Even as large scale timber smuggled from forests was being seized across the State, it was learnt that the department listed out around 450 seasoned smugglers and wildlife poachers to crack down on.

The move comes after Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao on January 7 said timber smuggling from the State’s forests must end to protect the natural green cover. Following the instructions, the Forest Department formed special task force teams, supervised by PCCF (Vigilance) Raghuveer, and launched extensive checks and raids on individuals and groups known to be involved in smuggling, as well as on saw mills.

Several persons were taken into custody, particularly in Adilabad, Boath, Nirmal, Ichoda, Khanapur, and Khammam, while a large amount of timber was seized, officials said. For instance, on Saturday teak logs were seized from Boath, Khanapur and Yellammaguda villages in erstwhile Adilabad district from where large caches of wood hidden by smugglers — in fields, homes or handed over to saw mills — were seized.

With the Police Department assisting the Forest Department in the raids, the latter also trained its guns on individuals with a history of poaching and those who illegally occupied forest land of 10 acres or more. They said notices were issued to saw mills from where smuggled wood was seized.

Meanwhile, police officials in Peddapally district and Khammam Commissionerate held coordination meetings with the Forest Department officials on Saturday to ensure foolproof measures with respect to the raids. The officials said one of the focus areas for them was the traditional wood smuggling communities of Multanis and Gutti Koyas who live in forest villages and hamlets. The department said it was looking at encouraging others to take up other forms of livelihood that will draw them away from wood smuggling and other forest crimes.