BARDIBAS: Smuggling of trees has sharply increased in Mahottari district in the recent days during the ongoing general shutdown enforced by the agitating political parties. As the security personnel have shifted their focus on maintaining peace and security order keeping the political unrest in mind, the smugglers have fallen dozens of trees of national forest, religious forest, leasehold forest and Sagarnath forest development project in Mahottari district. During the time of ongoing agitation, at least 20 Sakhuwa trees have been allegedly fallen from Tuteshwornath leasehold forest in Bardibas Municipality-12. Manik Kafle, a local resident in Tuteshwor village, said the smugglers have chopped off the trees during the nighttime taking advantage of absence of the police administration and the forest security personnel. Likewise, more than 15 Sakhuwa trees were also fallen in the national forest of Bardibas Municipality and Khayarmara VDC, the local residents said. The smuggling of the forest products has gone unabated after a unit of the Armed Police Force (APF) was shifted from Laxminiya Chowk in the district. Meanwhile, the officials of the District Forest Office have also admitted that smuggling of the forest produces has increased lately. District Forest Officer Shantamaya Shrestha said that patrolling in the forest area could not be arranged despite the local residents’ complaints on the issue as the officials themselves are unsafe. The agitating cadres of the Madhes-centric political parties have padlocked the District Forest Office, preventing the officials from entering into their office. Likewise, the agitators have obstructed the vehicular movement along the East-West Highway in the district by cutting the Saal trees at least in 10 different locations. It is said that smuggling of the logs has further increased after the administration’s failure to manage the trunks though police resumed the traffic by removing the fallen trees.