The Himachal Pradesh forest department has registered 31 cases of illegal felling of trees, involving timber worth Rs 700,120, in less than a year, the state forest minister said on Saturday.
"Eight 'van thanas' or forest police stations that were set up in the state in May 2009 have registered 31 cases of illegal forest felling involving timber worth Rs 700,120," Forest Minister JP Nadda said.
He said five cases of timber smuggling had been registered and timber worth Rs 122,373 were seized.
Nadda said the forest police stations helped a lot in combating organised forest crimes.
"The government has approved eight more such stations. These will be set up in Shimla, Mandi, Kullu, Kangra, Hamirpur and Sirmaur districts," the minister said.
He said maximum number of smuggling cases was reported from Shimla, Sirmaur, Kullu, Chamba and Mandi districts.
Each forest police station, headed by a deputy forest ranger, comprises eight to 10 forest guards. It deals exclusively with forest crimes.
Himachal Pradesh is the second state after Madhya Pradesh where a special task force has been raised to check forest crimes.
Now, the government has plans to raise more eco-battalions.
In his budget speech on March 12, Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal said: "The eco-battalion has done a commendable job in re-greening the Kol dam catchments. We are considering to establish four more such battalions through CAMPA (compensatory afforestation management and planning authority). These battalions would not only provide employment to 500 ex-servicemen but would also help better conservation of trees planted in catchments."
The total geographical area of the hill state is 55,673 sq km, of which 66.5 percent or 37,033 sq km is classified as the forested area.