Forest dept probe report blames revenue officials, District Collectors for tree felling

Forest dept probe report blames revenue officials, including District Collectors, for tree felling

Thiruvananthapuram: A probe report on the massive tree felling across Kerala has blamed the Revenue Department for serious lapses at multiple levels, from the village officer to district collectors.

The report by the Principal Chief Forest Conservator (Vigilance) Ganga Singh said the Forest Department officials had failed in exercising caution.

Singh reported that as many as 2,400 trees worth Rs 15 crore were felled from assigned revenue deeded land from Wayanad, including Muttil village. The trees were felled and transported by misinterpreting the controversial Revenue Department order issued.

It also said massive trees were axed in nine districts even as the Revenue Department officials remained inactive. The districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Malappuram, Wayanad and Kasaragod witnessed widespread incidents of tree felling.

Among the trees felled, 90% comprised teakwood and rosewood, the report submitted to the Principal Secretary, Department of Forest, said. The report would be forwarded to Minister for Forest A K Saseendran on Monday.

The trees were chopped exploiting the loopholes and vagueness in the government order the Principal Secretary for Revenue had issued on October 24, 2020. The report also pointed at lapses in preventing the felling of trees on revenue deeded land.

The Forest Department had issued passes, except in Wayanad district, to transport timber of the felled trees. Authorities have so far recovered 92% of rosewood trees that were felled, but 80% of teakwood were yet to be recovered.

Five separate teams set up by the Forest Department conducted the probe. It was learnt that the department would transfer several officials, including seniors, based on the investigation report.

A special investigation team under S Sreejith, Additional Director General of Police, and the Enforcement Wing, too, have been probing the incident.

Govt seeks report from Kollam collector

The State government has sought a report from the district collector after widespread felling of trees were reported from Kollam's mountainous areas in the east.

Trees, mostly royal trees such as rosewood and teakwood, were felled in Punalur, Pathanapuram and Kottarakkara taluks. Though preliminary reports had pegged the number of trees chopped and transported at 83, it has been suspected that at least double the number had been smuggled out.

The Department of Revenue said in its preliminary report that no trees had been felled in Kollam. It has been suspected that trees on reserve forest areas were felled under the cover of passes issued to transport timber from assigned revenue pattaya land.

District Collector B Abdul Nasar said trees were felled in Kollam also, though not on a massive scale as in other districts.

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