P. Oppili

CHENNAI: A Forest Protection and Vigilance wing has been formed in the State Forest Department and began functioning in April, according to a senior official.

Its main duty is to gather intelligence relating to forest offences and offenders. Whenever the vigilance wing officials come across any offence, they can secure the offenders and can hand them over to the local District Forest Officer.

Ten Forest Protection Squads are functioning in the State and another three have been created by redeploying the manpower. The 13 squads have been divided into Southern Group and Northern Group.

The Southern Group will function in Villupuram, Tiruchi, Dindigul, Madurai, Virudhunagar and Tirunelveli. The Northern Group will function in Chennai, Vellore, Salem, Dharmapuri, Erode, Coimbatore and the Nilgiris. Each squad will be headed by an officer in the rank of Assistant Conservator of Forests.

He will have a Range Officer, two Foresters, four Forest Guards and two Forest Watchers. The squads have been provided with support staff and communication facilities.

New arrangement

Under the new arrangement, the Assistant Conservator of Forests heading the squads will report to two officers in the rank of Chief Conservator of Forests, functioning from the headquarters in Chennai. They, in turn, report to an Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests.

More than a decade ago, a Forest Cell Criminal Investigation Department (CID) was functioning in the Forest Department. It was manned by police personnel on deputation.

Similarly, the Forest Department can send a Range Officer, a Forester along with two Forest Guards and Watchers on deputation to the Coastal Security Group wing of the State police. The facilities with the Coastal Security Group can be utilised for protecting the marine resources too, the official added.