The government may soon be compelled to deploy the armed forces to arrest the rape of forests by organised gangs, Environment Ministry Secretary Jayalath Dissanayake said yesterday.
He said the country`s forest cover and bio-diversity was in grave danger due to a large number of organised gangs exploiting the natural resources and the gravity of the situation, especially where these gangs were armed to the teeth with modern sophisticated weapons such as T56 assault rifles and equipped with modern telecommunication equipment, had been brought to the notice Environment Minister Maithripala Sirisena.
He said most of the gangs are backed by some corrupt politicians who threaten the officials and staff of the respective law enforcement departments.
The government has decided to crack down on the activities of these gangs that are killing protected species of wildlife like deer, sambhur and are also known to have been responsible for killing elephants for tusks. The 600 game guards, deployed by the Department of Wildlife, are always deceived by the gangs who use mobile telecom equipment to warn those who are in the forests doing their illegal work. When the gangs are confronted they display their weapons and threaten the wildlife men, he said.
The gangs move about in modern vehicles and employ highly trained marksmen in poaching operations. In some areas political clout is used to rape the forests of valuable trees so that the country is losing a large percentage of the forest cover and wildlife at a rapid rate, he added.