Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Forest loot unabated in Budgam’s Raithan Range

Forest Officer Pleads Helplessness

DFO admits, says it’s vulnerable area

GOWHAR BHAT (Greater kashmir)

Raithan: The wanton loot of forests is unabated in this forest range of central Kashmir as timber smugglers chop off the green trees with impunity and ferry it unhindered for sale.

The once thick forests of Kachwara, Watrawad and Arigam known for the green wealth of kail and fur trees are fast vanishing. The severely affected forest range is only 10-15 kilometers away from the Forest Control Room of the Pirpanjal range, which was created for stopping the forest loot. More importantly, the range is close to the office of the divisional forest officer and the observation post of the department.

The smugglers carry the timber on horse backs and in vehicles for sale in different areas including Budgam, Ompura, Bemina, and Rawalpora, said a group of senior citizens here.

“Smugglers can be easily trapped, if there is a will. The smuggled timber even passes through the district headquarters, where the offices of top forest officials are located,” they said, wishing not to be named.

Arigam village located at the foothill of the Raithan forest range has been declared as “A-Zone” of the forest area under the Forest Protection Act. Under the Supreme Court guidelines setting up of band saws is strictly prohibited in the Zone. Even then, two band saws are operational in the area, the residents alleged.

According to the villagers of Kachwara, Watrawad and Arigam, the felling of trees and smuggling of timber has increased over the past year. They alleged that there was a nexus between the smugglers and top officials of the FPF and the Forest department.

“Many a times, we approached top district officials of the department and urged them to curb the wanton loot, but nobody paid any heed to our pleas,” said a youth, Mushtaq Ahmad.

Joined by a group of locals, Mushtaq said “Sometimes the felling of trees continues for days together in the upper reaches of the forest range when 15 to 20 trees are felled in a day. At least 150-170 smugglers are active in the range. And 60-70 horses carrying timber move out of the area daily,” they alleged.

At Watrawad, villagers said, the smugglers had developed “innovative” methods of smuggling timber. After felling the tree, they burn the tree branches making them look old and then chop and slice the trees to the desired size and shape, villagers said, adding many locals are actively involved in smuggling. “The authorities concerned provide safe passages for timber smuggling from the area,” they alleged.

A lower rung forest official pleading anonymity for fear of reprisal said that timber smuggling could not be stopped without support from the department’s top brass. There are reports that FPF and Forest officials facilitate timber smuggling. The official didn’t rule out nexus between smugglers and top officials.

When contacted, the divisional forest officer, Pirpanjal Division, Javaid Andrabi, acknowledged that smugglers were active in the Raithan range. “This is a highly vulnerable division. We are trying to check the timber smuggling,” he said, adding the department was short of manpower.

“I have written to the government about the situation but so far there has been little response. We need manpower and machinery to check smuggling,” he added.

1 comment:

Sarayah said...

Those trees as well as the land should be protected. They belong to God Sebaot.God of all living. He wants all the best for this earth, we must stop destroying it.