RAWALPINDI - As the un-availability of natural gas marred the lives of people in chilly weather, the logger mafia is out on the dangerous mission of stealing woods from forests illegally and to sell it out at the hands of wood-sellers in various areas of the division, reliable sources told The Nation on Wednesday.
Though the Divisional Forest Department often claims that deforestation has slowed in recent years because of tougher regulations and check and balance by the department along with police, yet the unscrupulous loggers are still finding ways to get timber out of the jungles and selling it as legally felled wood.
According to sources, the unabated illegal wood cutting was continuing round-the-clock apparently with the alleged connivance of some corrupt officials of Forest Department in the jungles (Rakhs) of Dhamial, Adyala, Chontra, Murree, Darnoyan, Kotli Sattian, Biaga, Lehtrar, Karal, Burj, forward Kahuta, Kalar Syedan and in several areas of Fateh Jang, Attock, Chakwal and Jhelum.
“The wide-scale theft of woods/precious tree by the logger mafia has become a sign of nosiness for the owners of the lands from where the woods were being chopped illegally,” sources said.
Sources claimed that the logger mafia usually smuggle the woods in darkness of night with alleged connivance of officials deployed at the Forest Department Check Posts set up in various areas to discourage the illegal smuggling of wood. “The loggers not only sale the woods at the hands of wood-stalls but also smuggle it to other parts of the country,” sources said.
Background interviews conducted by this scribe with locals and land owners, where illegal cutting of woods is continuing without any legal scanner, revealed that the Sepoy (Daroga) played an important role to strengthening hands of loggers.
Sharing the tricks and methods being adopted by the Forest Department Sepoy (Daroga) to let the loggers chop tree and later hide the crime from the eyes of high-ups, the locals said that the Sepoy marked wrong numbers on the tree before cutting by the loggers.
He added that then the loggers also removed the root of the tree and filled the ditch with soil to show as if there was no tree grew here ever. “I have been worried about loggers stealing timber from my land. It happens routinely and that the loggers enjoying good relations with the officials of forest department. The loggers also use falsified papers to make the wood look as if it had been legally felled,” said Nasim, a land owner, residing in Murree. He said that the loggers have been eating the forests like termite in the Cantt areas.
A source in Kalar Syedan also disclosed to The Nation that the illegal wood cutting was continued in the forests on larger scale while the woods were being smuggled to other parts of the country. “Several checks posts established by the Forest Department have become ineffective allowing the logger mafia to smuggle wood and making million of rupees,” sources said.
SHO Police Station Kallar Syedan Altaf Gohar, who had played a good role in capturing wood smugglers besides recovering wood worth million of rupees, told The Nation that all the loggers were being supported and paid by the Forest Department of AJK and a large scale of woods were being smuggled to Kashmir.
Provincial Minister for Forests, Fishery and Live Stock Malik Asif Ali Bah, despite repeated attempts, could not be approached for his comments on unchecked deforestation in Punjab.