Special Correspondent

Joint mechanism to check sandalwood smuggling

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Forest Ministers of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka met here on Friday to discuss how a common strategy could be evolved for the conservation of the forest resources of the region.

Their counterparts from Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry are expected to join the conference when the discussions continue on Saturday. The event is at the initiative of Kerala Forest Minister Benoy Viswom.

At a press conference on the sidelines of the conference, Mr. Viswom said the southern peninsula had big conservation significance since it covered the Western Ghats, considered one of the top biodiversity hotspots in the world, and much of the Eastern Ghats region. A topic that figured prominently at the discussion on Friday related to mafia operations of sandalwood smugglers. The Ministers decided to set up a joint mechanism of the States for checking the smuggling by exchanging information on smugglers and conducting raids wherever necessary. Tamil Nadu Forest Minister N. Selvaraj proposed common legislation and research facilities.

He said the conservation outside the borders of one State was as important for that State as conservation within that State.

Karnataka Forest Minister C. Chennegappa said protecting the forest cover had great significance in conserving the water resources of the region. Mr. Viswom said the Union Government should give due importance to the need for expanding the forest cover in the country by allotting more funds for conservation and forestation activities of State Forest Departments.