Probe ordered after sandalwood trees axed near Taj Mahal

April 11th, 2009 - 11:50 am ICT by IANS  

Agra, April 11 (IANS) An inquiry has been initiated after sandalwood trees were found axed in the Shah Jahan garden near the Taj Mahal here, an official said Saturday.
Two gardeners were caught by the residents of Taj Ganj area while they were allegedly cutting a sandalwood tree Friday. Later, they were suspended by the state horticulture department.

District magistrate Ashish Goel has ordered an inquiry into the incident. Officials in the horticulture department said only two trees were missing while local residents say more than a dozen trees have disappeared.

“Many trees are missing while cuts are visible on the trunks of several others. With another round of strong winds they will surely fall,” Taj Ganj resident Munnaw Ali said.

The district officials said wood of the trees already axed has been kept in the store room, which already has tonnes of sandal wood rotting for years.

An official said there were many sandalwood trees some years ago, but gardeners in connivance with sandalwood smugglers have cut the trees.

“Agra has been a major centre of sandalwood smuggling, feeding the pan masala industry in Kanpur and Noida. In the 1990s police busted several gangs operating as agents of Veerappan in Agra and Mathura,” said a retired police officer.

The Shah Jahan garden attracts hundreds of tourists daily. It is one of the best managed gardens in the city with a wide variety of exotic plants and numerous century-old trees.

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