Union Min Prakash Javadekar seeks report on illegal axing of rosewood trees in Kerala

Union Min Prakash Javadekar seeks report on illegal axing of rosewood trees in Kerala

New Delhi/Kochi: Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday sought a report from officials concerned on the issue of alleged mass felling and smuggling of centuries-old rosewood trees from the forest land in Kerala's Wayanad district.

This was disclosed by Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan, who met Javadekar in New Delhi today seeking his intervention into the matter.

Talking to reporters in New Delhi, Muraleedharan, who is from Kerala, said the Union Environment Minister has sought a report from his officials on the basis of his complaint seeking action against the culprits, who had axed timber worth crores from the Kerala forests.

He alleged that the trees were looted from the forests under the shield of an order issued by the state government last year.

Demanding a comprehensive probe into the incident, Muraleedharan said the order was issued with the complete knowledge of the political leadership of state's ruling LDF.

"The role of the two ministers in the previous LDF government should also be investigated", he added.

The opposition Congress-led UDF had raised the issue in the Kerala Assembly on Tuesday, accusing the Left government of shielding the culprits.

The state government on Wednesday informed the Kerala High Court that a mafia was involved in felling of trees and what was revealed in the investigation was just the tip of the iceberg.

The state government said this when a plea seeking to quash FIRs registered by the Forest Department in connection with various cases of illegal harvest of trees in Muttil village came up in the court.

The High Court has refused to stay the investigation into the case.

A government order, issued on October 24, 2020, was misinterpreted to fell and transported centuries-old rosewood trees worth crores of rupees. The order allowed farmers to axe royal trees, except sandalwood, which they had planted and naturally grown on the land assigned to them under the Land Assignment Rules.

Misinterpreting the order, a large number of trees were felled on the land assigned to the tribal-backward class communities at South Muttil village.

The smugglers could transport 101 timber trees that are over 100 years old from Wayanad to a timber mill in Perumbavur, Ernakulam, without any supervisory hurdles along the way. The booty was seized only after the load reached Perumbavur and a complaint was lodged by the mill owner. The Meppadi range officer (RO) promptly rushed to Perumbavur and seized the stolen timber.

(With PTI inputs)

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