Enthused by the success of Directorate of Revenue Intelligence’s (DRI) efforts in busting organised syndicates of red sanders smugglers with the help of other nations, the World Customs Organization (WCO) has urged it to form alliances with several nations in curbing the illegal trade of other precious wood.
Early during the year in April, the DRI had launched ‘Operation Sesha’ (derived from Seshachalam forest in Andhra Pradesh) by roping in 17 countries including Malaysia, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, China, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, Maldives, Pakistan and the Philippines, among others, under which it seized red sanders worth 451 metric tonnes during the April-May period.
“The operation was a huge success as the seizure of smuggled red sanders in those two months was much more than the 379 metric tonnes made during the entire 2014-15. The WCO has noticed this and asked us to form a bigger alliance with nations across the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia to curb illegal smuggling of other endangered timber,” an official told The Indian Express.
Red Sander has high demand in China, Hong Kong and Japan where it is considered a luxury item. DRI seized red sanders worth 324 metric tonnes in 2013-14. According to the DRI, the seizure is only 10 per cent of the actual wood being smuggled.
The official said that the precious woods include ebony of Indonesia, sandalwood from Sri Lanka, Madagascar rose wood, agarwood, red sanders, beach slab wood, siam rose wood, Burmese rose wood, and diyar wood from Pakistan.
“After the idea was floated by India and Hong Kong for ‘Operation Sesha’ to curb the illegal smuggling of wood, the WCO wanted to simulate it for all CITES wood,” the official said. The ‘Operation Sesha-II’ is likely to become operational early next year and “the WCO is looking for a suitable date to implement it”.
All Regional Intelligence Liaison Offices (RILO) across these nations have already started drafting the strategy to initiate the operation to protect these endangered plant species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international agreement between governments. While there are three RILOs in Africa, there are one each in Middle East and southeast Asia. CITES regulates international trade in over 35,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives, in order to ensure their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment.