Amid pandemic, illegal construction, forest loot continue unabated

By: Sameer Showkin Lone

Srinagar: Whenever any crisis has hit Jammu and Kashmir, the natural resources have become first casualty, especially the forests-also known as the green gold.

The walnut trees and famous Chinar trees, considered a government property, are also facing the heavy axe now.

During the era of 1990s when the armed movement was at its peak, the forests had faced the heat.

Many persons had allegedly built castles out of this forest loot in 1990s and are now living a posh life.

Amid pandemic when the administration is mostly involved in implementation of Covid SOPs, the vested interests have started taking undue advantage of the prevailing crisis.

The forest loot, illegal raising of buildings, even in the eco-sensitive zones, are going on unabated, and there is no check on it.

Reports reveal that the illegal works are continuing at various places.

From Srinagar’s Dal-Lake to the forests of Keller in Shopian, vested interests are taking utmost advantage of the current crisis to exploit the resources.

Apart from chopping down the forest trees in central Kashmir’s Budgam district and south Kashmir’s Shopian and Anantnag forest areas, sources said in Kellar forests of Shopian, few Sarpanchs have started constructing huts at Sangam- the place government wants to bring on the tourism map, and there is no check on this as police aren’t able to visit the area in the present situation.

“We informed the police but they aren’t in a position to venture out of the police post,” a local told over phone.

The unabated loot is also reportedly going on in lush forests of Kothar range, Shopian-Pulwama, Doodganga range, Rithan range, Beerwah range, Googaldhara area in Tangmarg, Rafiabad, Doabgah range and Kandi range of Baramulla district.

“We are unable to mobilize our work force to put a check on these smugglers. We found ourselves helpless,” said a forest official. He said the system has completely fallen apart.

Similarly, Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA)-the body responsible to conserve and manage the famous Dal Lake and Nigeen Lake in Srinagar, has gone on a demolition drive against all the illegal structures erected in the eco-sensitive zone in the last one month.

In north Kashmir’s Handwara, reports say the smugglers are using their private vehicles to ferry illegal timber and there is nobody to stop them. They also allege that smugglers and the department employees are hand in glove and share the booty equally.

Chief Enforcement Officer (CEO) of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) said they demolished several structures.

“We are facing problems to reach out to the colonies where we have reports of illegal structures being constructed. But at some places mostly on the main roads we have been able to demolish illegal structures,” he said.

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