Himachal raises special police force to tackle timber mafia

May 24th, 2009 - 12:13 pm ICT by IANS  

By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, May 24 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh has raised a ‘green’ task force to combat organised forest crimes.

The task force, called forest police, will keep tabs on timber mafias operating in areas where cases of illicit felling and timber smuggling have been on the rise in recent years.

“We (the government) have raised a special police force to check cases of forest crimes like illicit felling of trees and timber smuggling. It will collect information on forest crimes, conduct raids, register cases and seize timber and anything relating to biodiversity,” state Forest Minister J.P. Nadda told IANS.

He said ‘van thanas’, or forest police stations, would be set up to deal exclusively with such cases.

“Modelled on the pattern of general police stations, the forest stations will handle forest crimes only. The first such station was established in Shimla district this week.

“We (Himachal Pradesh) are the second state in the country after Madhya Pradesh, where the concept of a special force to deal with forest crimes was introduced,” he said.

The government plans to establish six such stations in the state right away.

“Each station will be headed by an official of the rank of deputy forest ranger with a team of seven forest guards. Arms, ammunition and a communication system would be provided to the staff for carrying out patrolling,” the minister added.

According to him, with the setting up of these stations the government would be able to concentrate on certain areas where timber smugglers are active.

Nadda said the maximum number of smuggling cases was being reported in Shimla, Sirmaur, Kullu and Mandi districts.

The hill state has already taken various initiatives towards environment conservation. As part of its first micro-level drive, residents across the state planted 1.5 million saplings on a single day, Aug 3 last year.

The government also imposed a voluntary ‘green tax’ on vehicle users in October last year to generate a fund to combat climate change. The tax became a reality with cabinet ministers deciding to contribute Rs.100 per month towards creating the corpus.

In its official records, the Himalayan state has 66 percent of its area under forest cover. But it is most vulnerable to climate change as the Himalayan glaciers have been retreating due to global warming.

The latest report of the Forest Survey of India has revealed that the area of the state’s moderate dense forests - tree-cover ranging from 40 to 70 percent - has decreased from 7,883 sq km to 7,831 sq km, a small reduction of 52 sq km.

The area under very dense forests - tree-cover in excess of 70 percent - has marginally increased from 1,093 sq km to 1,097 sq km.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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