Assam and Maharashtra state units on high alert to curb illegal trade of agrawood

The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau informed the Centre and various state departments, after taking cognisance of HT’s August 2 report.

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Taking cognisance of a report by HT about agarwood seizures in Mumbai over the past seven months, the western division of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) informed various Central and state government departments about the seriousness of illegal trade related to the ‘critically endangered’ species of wood. WCCB officials said they wrote to the Maharashtra and Assam forest departments, air cargo division of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, different intelligence units of the Customs, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, railways, state transport department and their head office in Delhi on Friday.

“An alert has been issued to all these departments that can possibly intercept such consignments, requesting them to work in tandem to ensure such cases are identified, seizures are made, and brought to the notice of WCCB immediately. The Thane forest department and HT report confirms the use of fake certificates for this illegal trade and the wood is being transported out of India. People are taking risks and it is a matter of concern,” said M Maranko, regional deputy director, WCCB.

Agarwood, or aquilaria malaccensis, has a long history of being taken to the Arabian peninsula by Indian traders. In ancient times, it was known as the “the wood of the gods” and the resin extracted from it is still described as “liquid gold” because of the exorbitant prices it fetches. With agarwood heading towards extinction, export of agarwood has been prohibited since 1991.

Every letter has a copy of the HT article (see page grab) on how 525kg of agarwood has been seized and three people were arrested by the Mumbai range of the Thane forest department since January this year.

“We are glad the matter is being taken seriously and swift coordination between departments can reduce such cases,” said Jitendra Ramgaokar, deputy conservator of forest, Thane.

Assam forest officials confirmed that there are issues related to forged permissions to transport the wood, and they had written to their state government. “Forgery is a major issue and the two states, Maharashtra and Assam, need to work in tandem to curb the issue. We have told our state government to help increase efforts along state borders to monitor the movement of agarwood,” said Niranjan Kumar Vasu, principal chief conservator of forest, Assam forest department.

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