The move to equip forest guards with firearms and intensify vigil along problem areas has effectively reduced the number of smuggling cases this year. Equipping forest guards with firearms and intensified vigil have drastically brought the smuggling down this year. Encouraged with the salutary efforts the forest department has placed procurement orders for 250 more guns for forest guards and 125 revolvers for the officials, said additional PCCF (Vigilance) B Muralikrishna. In 2011 and 2010 nearly 35,000 cases of stealing timber and killing denizens of jungle, were registered. But up to September this year the total cases registered in the State came to 14,290. It is expected that the overall cases would be less than 20,000 as compared to 35,000 in the last two years. “We have stepped up vigil and the forest range have been provided with firearms,” explained Muralikrishna.
Officially, AP has nearly 63,814 sq.kms of forested area. However, authorities agree that not all are viable forest ecosystems. Degradation, encroachment, violation of forest rules result in loss of forest cover. Corruption among forest protection functionaries is another reason for the dwindling forest wealth of the State. The biggest challenge the AP forest managers face is the smuggling of red sanders which commands huge prices in the international market. Thanks to China’s offer of high prices, red sander smuggling along the AP-Tamil Nadu border forests has gone up in the recent past. There were as many as 1,546 cases of red sanders being smuggled last year and till September this year, nearly 927 such cases have been recorded. Forest vigil saves 14.30 tonne of red sander. Some 977 vehicles have been confiscated and 2,651 people arrested.
Senior forest officials say the empowerment of the forest guards to open fire if they find people engaged in cutting timber or violating forest rules has generated a fear among smugglers but they too are well equipped.