Stay on transportation of felled timber withdrawn

Pramod Mellegatti

As a result, unauthorised felling of trees in the Khanesumari sites could continue

Timber and firewood worth Rs. 30 crore

has been felled

Khanesumari sites have been occupied

illegally by villagers

SHIMOGA: Unauthorised felling and transportation of trees, worth Rs. 30 crore, in the Khanesumari sites of the Sagar division of the Forest Department in Shimoga district has come to light. Now that the stay imposed by the Vigilance Cell of the Forest Department in July, on transportation of felled timber, has been vacated on Friday, transporting of trees have again started in earnest at Khanesumari sites.

The Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Vigilance) had instructed the Deputy Conservator of Forest of the Sagar division, in July, to stop issuing transit permits for transporting trees from the Khanesumari areas with immediate effect, pending inquiry following reports that a lot of timber and firewood were being transported from the forest. He also said that if any timber or firewood from Khanesumari was transported after July 14, the concerned Deputy Conservators would be held responsible.

Sudden withdrawal

What prompted the sudden withdrawal of the stay is not known. The hurried manner in which the stay was withdrawn, reportedly under political pressure, has come as a surprise to officials. Nearly 200 permits for felling trees in the Khanesumari sites were issued by the Deputy Conservator of Forest at Sagar, on the basis of the no-objection-certificates issued by the gram panchayats.

Nearly 10,000 cubic metres of timber, 200 cubic metres of firewood and 800 cubic metres of jungle wood, valued at Rs. 30 crore, has been felled in the Khanesumari sites. One third of this had already been transported by the time of the stay in July.

The issue of the mafi pass by the Forest Department to fell the trees is fraught with loopholes. The largest number of mafi passes have been issued in the Sagar division.

The Khanesumari sites belong to the Revenue Department and is kept under the purview of the of the gram panchayats. But its extent has not been demarcated either by the Revenue Department or the Land Records Department. The sites are occupied, unauthorised, by villagers and are registered in the records of the gram panchayats in the names of the occupants of such lands. In some cases, the area occupied is more than what is shown in the site measurements.

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