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Operation Sesha: DRI ropes in 17 nations to check red sanders smuggling

The wood is especially in demand in China and Japan where it is considered auspicious and a luxury.

Written by Shruti Srivastava | New Delhi |
April 22, 2015 2:27:09 am

To rein in the rising smuggling of red sanders wood, the directorate of revenue intelligence (DRI) has reached out to 17 countries to bust organised syndicates of the smugglers of the precious wood and trace their origin.

The programme — Operation Sesha (derived from Seshachalam forest) —  has roped in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, China, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, Maldives, Pakistan and the Philippines, among others, to track down smugglers of the precious wood, which is an endangered plant species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international agreement between governments.

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The trigger for the programme, which was launched last month, is the steady rise in the smuggling of red sanders (red sandalwood) in the last eight years, from 200 metric tonne in 2008-09 to a high of 610 metric tonne in 2011-12, sources told The Indian Express. This amounts to over Rs 74 crore when calculated at Rs 12 lakh per metric tonne, the value at which auction for A-grade wood was conducted in December 2014. However, when sold through illegal channels, the value is much higher, the sources said.

“The seizures made by us reveal that the quantity has gone up significantly. Though  from 610 metric tonne in 2011-12 it came down to 325 in 2013-14, in the last fiscal it again rose to 380 metric tonne. It is a problem peculiar to India with this being the only country where it is found. Without busting the organised syndicates we will not be able to tackle the problem,” the sources said.

In 2009-10, the seizure made was 335 tonne while in 2010-11 it was 375 metric tonne. In 2012-13 it stood at 480 tonnes, according to the official figures. There has been an increase in 2014-15 to 380 metric tonne on the back of growing demand. Red sanders is cultivated in the forests of Seshachalam, Veliganda, Lankamala and Palakonda hill ranges distributed in districts of Kadapa, Chittoor, Nellore, Prakasam and Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh.

The wood is especially in demand in China and Japan where it is considered auspicious and a luxury. “The smugglers are using Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong to smuggle the wood through sea route while Nepal and Bangladesh to smuggle through land route,” the sources said.

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