Kozhikode: As the row over illegal felling of protected trees rages latest reports reveal the number of trees cut based on a controversial order of the revenue department is several times higher than the official figures furnished by the forest department of the Kerala government.
According to figures released by the forest department, 2,419 teak and rosewood trees were lost since the circular was issued in March 11, 2020 despite objections by the law officer. However the figures brought out by the forest vigilance wing makes it amply clear that 3,919 trees were lost in Mannarkkad range alone and 3,500 trees in Agali range.
Mannarkad and Agali are in the Palakkad district, close to the Tamil Nadu border.
If more than 7,000 trees had been cut in just two forest ranges in Palakkad district, then the loss of trees across the state is anybody's guess. The loss of protected trees is several times more than the official figures provided by the department.
The forest department has itself admitted that the highest number of trees were lost in Mepadi range in Wayanad district which also includes Muttil. The actual figures from other places including Ernakulam district are yet to come out.
However, the report on logging in Mannarkad has clearly mentioned the exact number of trees. The Agali report has calculated the loss in cubic metres. Here the illegal tree felling took place on the land belonging to 275 persons.
Range officer's misleading RTI reply
The reply provided by Mannarkkad range officer to "Manorama" under the Right To Information Act stated that not a single tree was lost in the range. However, according to the data of the forest department's vigilance wing as many as 3,919 trees were lost in this particular range. In his RTI response the range officer claimed that these trees were not cut illegally and passes were issued for the purpose.
But the list of tree-fellers prepared for the vigilance inquiry mentions the names and addresses of 246 persons including land owners.
The ongoing probe into the large-scale axing of protected trees on assigned land in a few districts in Kerala revealed that the revenue department overlooked a legal advise pointing to the illegality of that controversial order that encouraged their widespread felling.