The frequent smuggling of red sanders has posed a serious threat to the precious wood species. Seizures by Customs and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in the last two years show that more than 27,000 trees have been chopped. Making matters worse, this estimate only pertains to seizures is Mumbai.
“The total number of trees chopped would be much more, as large amounts may have been smuggled from Gujarat and other parts of the country as well,” a senior Customs official said, requesting anonymity.
“If nationwide estimates are considered, the number of trees cut will rise steeply,” he said, adding that it is difficult to estimate the quantity of red sanders smuggled from other parts of the country.
The two agencies have seized close to seven-lakh kg of red sanders in the last two years, 4-lakh kg of which is from this year alone. According to Customs officials, recent seizures show that each tree yielded around 25kg of wood.
The official added that though there is no estimate for the amount of red sanders smuggled out of the city, investigations show that around 7-lakh kg may have been successfully smuggled out in the last two years.
Though red sanders is being seized in large numbers at ports or warehouses, Customs officials said that a strict check is required at the various check points, as trucks, carrying the wood from Andhra Pradesh, can pass through these easily.
“The syndicates hide the consignment below vegetables, fruits and other perishable commodities, so that the truck is not stopped for a long time for checking,” the official said.
Stressing the need for vigilance at check posts he said: “Those manning the check points need to be more careful, as detecting red sanders the entry level would act as a deterrent for the syndicates.”