Over Rs 100 cr lost in illegal felling, smuggling of trees

India lost more than Rs 100 crore due to illegal felling and smuggling of rare and costly trees like sandalwood and teak between 2004 and 2006. The ministry of environment and forests admits that felling and smuggling of rare and costly trees like sandalwood and teak has been reported from various parts of the country during these three years and the worth of the trees lost was approximately Rs 102 crore. In the same breath it adds that "no large-scale illegal felling and smuggling of rare and costly trees like sandalwood and teak has been reported from different parts of the country. However, incidents of illicit felling and smuggling do take place,' while providing details furnished by different state governments and the directorate of revenue Intelligence in this regard. Quoting reports, the ministry says during 2005-07, a total of 2,666 sandalwood trees were illegally felled in Kerala while Karnataka reported 881 cases of smuggling of sandalwood involving a quantity of 35,299 kg. Maharashtra reported a loss of 1,404 sandalwood trees in illegal felling while there were a total of 253 case of smuggling of sandalwood involving 20.739 tonnes in Tamil Nadu during this period. And between 2006-07, cases were registered with regard to import of three consignments of sandalwood. In these cases 177.660 tonnes of sandalwood valued at Rs 1776.60 lakh was seized. Regarding illegal felling of sal and teak tree during 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2005-06, Andhra Pradesh suffered a loss of 8208.89 cubic meters amounting to Rs1633.98 lakh, Assam 5022 cubic meters (Rs 311.62 lakh), Chhattisgarh 58380 cubic meters (Rs 1287.81 lakh), Gujarat 13586 cubic meters (Rs 1360.74 lakh), Karanataka 6184 cubic meters (Rs 513.76 lakh), Himachal Pradesh 407 cubic meters (Rs 4.96 lakh), Maharashtra 268088 cubic meters (Rs 2251.12 lakh) and Haryana 10 trees (0.18 lakh). Regarding steps being taken for the protection and management of forests, the ministry says it is primarily the responsibility of state 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. Funds are provided to states and union territories for strengthening infrastructure for protection of forests from illicit felling, fires and encroachments. 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. Patrolling of the area, creation of checkposts 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 other measures.

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