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Ex-Champawat DFO gave illegal orders to fell pine trees, finds report

A detailed report was handed over to the head of forest force recommending appropriate action against the suspended Champawat divisional forest officer for granting illegal permits to chop down pine trees

dehradun Updated: Oct 18, 2017 20:22 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times
Uttarakhand,Champawat DFO,pine tree
Probe report says illegal permits for felling pine trees were issued by the Champawat DFO.(HT File/ Vinay Santosh Kumar)

A detailed report was handed over to the head of forest force (HoFF) recommending appropriate action against the suspended Champawat divisional forest officer (DFO) for granting illegal permits to chop down pine trees.

The 10-year management plan prescription of the forest division approved in 2012 bans any permit for pine felling for market sale. However, the then Champawat DFO AK Gupta allegedly issued the permits in violation of the guidelines, the report states.

The action came after a truck loaded with pine products was seized by the Tanakpur sub-divisional magistrate on September 2. The driver was found with permit for transporting 50 quintal hard wood and bark (despite the ban). Another 80 quintal of pine logs were also found with the consignment.

But this is not the only charge the senior officer faces. Gupta’s audio clip in which he is purportedly heard demanding commission to clear a contractor’s pending bills will be taken up for investigation after Diwali. Whistleblower and Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi will probe the case.

Preliminary findings of the report mention how despite a ban on issuing permits to fell pine trees for its hard wood and bark, the clearances were rampantly given in the Champawat forest division. Hindustan Times has a copy of the report which says Gupta gave permits for chopping down 6,275 quintal of pines from April to September 8.

Pine tree felling is banned in areas located above 1,000 m area in Uttarakhand. Felling is allowed only in areas earmarked by Uttarakhand Forest Development Corporation (UFDC) that markets the product through auction. In van panchayat areas, due permission is sought by the divisional forest officer. Any commercial use of pine wood and bark is also banned across the state.

Complaints were received against Gupta this year following which, in March, HoFF RK Mahajan send a notice reminding the DFO not to issue any permit. In June, conservator forest IP Singh also wrote to him asking to follow the rule, but it was of no avail. “We are yet to study the report which will be handed over to the government for action,” Mahajan told Hindustan Times.

Gupta was removed from the post of Champawat divisional forest officer and is temporarily attached with the forest department’s headquarters in Dehradun.

First Published: Oct 18, 2017 20:20 IST