PUNE: Over 13 lakh trees have been illegally cut in state-owned forests since 2005, depriving Maharashtra of its precious forest wealth.
Over the last eight years, the state's forests have lost one to two lakh (100 000 – 200 000) trees every year. Incidentally, Pune circle has recorded the lowest felling incidence over the years, with 376 trees illicitly cut between January and December 2012.
A senior state official of the forest department said that...the incidence of tree felling in forests cannot be ignored as it is detrimental to the environment. "A lot of illicit tree felling is observed in Sironcha in Gadchiroli district as it is near the state border of Andhra Pradesh and has considerable Naxal activity. Also, this type of illegal tree felling is prominent in Dhule, where considerable encroachment is seen in forests when villagers enter forest areas under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and cut trees and build habitations," said the official.
The official added that the government has also formed a committee to check illicit tree felling in Gadchiroli. "Other protection measures include providing forest guards and other officials with 750 pistols and 800 self-loading rifles as well as training 3,000 officials across the state in measures needed to reduce illicit felling of trees. We also recently gave 100 additional jeeps to range forest officers in affected areas such as Dhule and Gadchiroli as part of their mobile squad units," the official said...
...Another senior state official said that the total elimination of illicit tree felling in forest areas is not possible as forest areas are open from all directions and people cannot be prevented from entering them. "Majority of the trees cut as part of the illicit felling are of short girth and the wood is used by villagers for building their habitations, fencing and other jobs," he said...
...cutting trees leads to fragmentation of forests, which ultimately results in animals straying into human habitats. This leads to economic losses by way of crop raiding by herbivores, life stock killings and attack on humans by carnivores.
Ketaki Ghate, member of the Ecological Society, said that local native plants are associated with the wildlife in the forests. "When trees are cut in large numbers, the bigger forest area tends to fragment, which leads to habitat destruction. Even if one old-growth tree is cut, it is harmful to the eco-system and the fauna that thrives on each layer of that tree," she said.
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