The forest department has shut down over 40 timber mills that were allegedly operating illegally on the edges of the Sunderbans.
Based on tip-offs, teams of foresters from the South 24-Parganas forest division raided the mills, a senior official of the forest department said.
Milan Mondal, divisional forest officer of South 24-Parganas, said 43 such mills were shut down during the raids and timber worth around Rs 10 lakh was seized.
“We had been keeping a watch on timber mills that had mushroomed in the bordering zones of the mangroves in places like Canning and Patharpratima,” Mondal said.
“Multiple teams fanned out to these areas and we conducted raids at the mills. We shut down those that could not produce any papers or permits to operate. We have seized machinery that was being used,” he said.
For a timber mill to operate, a clearance certificate from the forest department and other documents, such as trade licence, pollution clearance certificate and fire licence, are required, a senior forest officer said.
Illegally operated timber mills are the go-to spot for timber smugglers before they are distributed across the city, he said.
“These mills pose a threat to the ecosystem of the Sunderbans. Woodcutters enter the mangroves and chop trees that are brought to these mills. The timber is sliced and then distributed in and around Calcutta,” the officer said.
Home to the Bengal Tiger, the Sunderbans is spread across 10,000sqkm, a little above 4,000sqkm of which is in India. The rest is in Bangladesh. The Indian Sunderbans is split between the tiger reserve and the South 24-Parganas division.