Govt Curbs Timber Smuggling in Kashmir
Jammu Kashmir's Forest Department embraces cutting-edge technology with an AI-based Facial Attendance Management System. The innovation brings transparency and accuracy to daily operations.
The efforts of the Forest Department of Jammu and Kashmir, in collaboration with the Forest Protection Force and J&K police, have yielded a substantial reduction of nearly 80% in timber smuggling recoveries in 2023 compared to the figures from the year 2021.
Analyzing the data, it becomes evident that the year 2021 witnessed the seizure of over 18 thousand cubic feet of timber, while 2022 experienced a slightly lower figure with a seizure of over 14k cubic feet in the Kashmir Valley.
Employing rigorous measures against forest smugglers and individuals engaging in the illicit trade of the region’s valuable natural resource, the Forest Department, in conjunction with the Forest Protection Force and J&K police, executed operations that led to the confiscation of approximately 40 vehicles and the recovery of thousands of cubic feet of timber in 2022, as per official records.
In a detailed breakdown, the Forest Department seized 37 vehicles transporting illicit timber across all its Kashmir forest divisions and confiscated 10,290 cubic feet of timber in the fiscal year 2023-24.
Further analysis reveals that within this period, the department intercepted 13 vehicles in the South circle, 17 in the Srinagar circle, and 07 in the North circle. Correspondingly, they recovered 2177 cubic feet of illegal timber in the South Circle, 2443 in the Srinagar circle, and 5945 cubic feet in the North Circle.
The data exposes a peak in seizures during May 2023, totaling 2110 cubic feet, making it the highest recorded seizure for the year. It is noteworthy that tree felling witnessed a significant surge during the winter months.
The Forest Department faced challenges from horse smugglers, who utilized horses in hilly terrains to transport timber, causing extensive damage to the forests. In 2023, the department seized around 17 horses in the South forest circle, while the central and North circles reported no such incidents.
Comparatively, in 2022, the Forest Department seized over 14,000 cubic feet of illicit timber and confiscated 38 vehicles in the Kashmir valley.
To counteract these illegal activities, the Jammu Kashmir forest department has initiated 159 FIRs, with the Kamraj range accounting for the highest number at 67 FIRs against timber smugglers. In a bid to enhance efficiency and transparency, the department has introduced an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based Facial Attendance Management System for its field staff.
The newly launched app is anticipated to revolutionize the monitoring of daily operations, thereby contributing to a reduction in forest timber smuggling, as expressed by an official. Additionally, the department established high-level coordination and monitoring committees last year, categorized into ‘Regional Level Forest Protection Committees’ and ‘Circle Level Forest Protection Committees,’ aiming to strengthen the existing system of Forest and Wildlife Protection through improved coordination among departments. These committees have played a pivotal role in curbing forest timber smuggling and ushering in a new era for the flora and fauna of Jammu Kashmir, according to the official.