Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy said that the State government is unable to dispose thousands of tonnes of red sander wood seized by the Forest Department officials during their raids, due to the unfavourable international trade norms.

Speaking after the launch of the afforestation drive on 63rd ‘Vana Mahotsavam’ in Tummaluru village in Maheshwaram mandal of Ranga Reddy district on Tuesday, Mr. Reddy said that the government is in possession of 9,000 tonnes of red sanders wood seized in various raids across the State.

If sold at an international price, the merchandise would fetch the State government a sum of Rs.300 crore to Rs.400 crore, he informed the audience, after inaugurating the drive by planting a sapling in the five-hectare reserve forest area earmarked for the purpose.

The Central government is now engaged in talks with international agencies for relaxation of norms, he said.

Cautioning people against rampant felling of trees, Mr. Reddy said that at least 10 to 20 saplings should be planted before one is uprooted.

The afforestation drive is majorly aimed at planting 20 lakh saplings across the State on a single day, and distribution of over 30 crore seedlings grown by different agencies under various government schemes.

Eight crore of teak and red sanders saplings grown in rural nurseries under the MGNREGS will be distributed free of cost to farmers as part of the drive, Minister for Environment and Forests Satrucharla Vijaya Ramaraju informed.

He mentioned the proposed Tiger Reserve at Kawal Sanctuary, and plantation proposed in 10,000 hectares of coastal line covering nine districts as major environmental initiatives by the government.

A total of 47, 733 cases has been booked, 2,377 vehicles seized and Rs.21.38 crore have been collected by way of penalty against illegal smuggling of forest timber during last year, the Minister said.

Children from schools in Maheshwaram, Kandukuru, and Ibrahimpatnam mandals arrived for the event, and participated in the plantation drive.

Ministers P. Sabitha Indra Reddy and G. Prasad Kumar too attended the event, apart from legislators and leaders from the district.