Shimla : Buoyed by the success of its forest police stations or ‘van thanas’ in checking illegal felling of timber, the Himachal Pradesh government has now decided to equip forest guards with weapons.
The government in May last year decided to open forest police stations on the pattern of Madhya Pradesh to combat organised forest crimes.
Each forest police station, headed by a deputy forest ranger, comprises eight to 10 forest guards. It deals exclusively with forest crimes. Currently, 10 forest stations are working in the state.
“The forest police stations are playing a crucial role in checking illegal felling of timber. Now, to tackle organised gangs, we have decided to equip the forest guards with weapons,” Additional Chief Secretary (Forests) Avay Shukla told IANS.
He said every deputy ranger would be provided with a pistol and the forest guards would have guns.
“We are in the process of procuring the weapons. The forest department has got the permission from the state home department,” he added.
According to him, the maximum number of smuggling cases has been reported from Shimla, Sirmaur, Kullu, Chamba and Mandi districts. By the end of this financial year, six more forest police stations would be set up in eco-sensitive zones.
The forest police stations have registered 80 cases of illegal felling of trees, including 15 of timber smuggling, involving timber worth a million rupees in just over one year.
Himachal Pradesh is the second state after Madhya Pradesh where a special task force has been raised to check forest crimes.
The total geographical area of the hill state is 55,673 sq km, of which 66.5 percent, i.e., 37,033 sq km, is classified as forest region.
The state is a storehouse of biodiversity. Of the 45,000 species of flora species found in the country, 3,295 species exist in Himachal Pradesh. It is the largest supplier of chilgoza pine nut, kuth medicinal plant, dioscorea wild yam, dhoop incense, picrorrhiza, valeriana and ephedra in the country.