Our neighboring State, Himachal Pradesh can be our fore runner or precursor in how to value a standing tree and more importantly, how to protect it . It used to be a routine “gossip” over in Shimla that if any plot of land had a standing tree in it, one had to plan and build a house in such a way that the existence of the tree was not going to be affected in anyway even if it meant no building permission. It may sound quite innovative and worthlot of praising that each tree standing in Himachal Pradesh has to be tagged with radio frequency identification (RFIT) to stop and frustrate illegal felling of trees which is a green gold treasure.
Why cannot Jammu and Kashmir State emulate such wonderful and innovative ways to protect trees? The major tourist resort of Patnitop is on the threshold of facing a worst exploitation of and overdrawing from such a God given natural wealth, the lush green tall serene trees bestowing the entire town with all the natural blessings including the much desired shade and invigoratingly fresh air. Tall Deodar tree is in itself a long journey of its life, how over many years it grows slowly, majestically and silently not to be felled within a few minutes by a man.
It sounds strange that even after the Apex Court having already directed for a complete ban on felling green trees, Patnitop unfortunately witnesses illegal felling for commercial gains. Even if hotels are coming up there, the motivation there-for is only the tourists visiting the town and staying in those hotels to enjoy the treat to eyes and to the souls – the lush green tall trees. When they are mercilessly felled, the hotels would face gradual negative occupancy and a resultant loss to their business. Hence commerce and nature must not be at logger heads, rather commerce and greed must necessarily succumb to nature.
At the outset, there should be a regulation, sort of a restriction for haphazard and mushrooming of commercial constructions in the protected areas in Patnitopwith an ingrained principle of no felling of tree to make way for raising a structure. Worst comes when structures are raised in contravention and blatant violation of building construction rules.It is a blend of both in Patnitop. Areas like Nag Mandir, KassalMorh, and other locations have such flagrantviolations which expose the functioning of the Development Authority and some key officials who are allegedly directly or indirectly but within their knowledge, promoting illegal constructions. But why, is a moot question and needs a thorough probe.
It is reported that seventeen fresh violations having taken place have come to light which are duly admitted by the concerned officials. The stunning fact of the matter is that in a rather planned way, Deodar trees are felled with active connivance of some PDA and a few local forest staff members. Why huge hotels should be permitted to be constructed despite clear cut instructions for these buildings not to exceed the height of 33 ft as prescribed under the Master Plan and why should such structures not be dismantled ? Areas identified forcommercial activities and demarcated green buffer areas should not intrude into each other, least the former. Majority of flagrant violations have taken place during the past eight years which needs a deep probe.
There can be no option, no choice other than saving tall green standing trees if Patnitop as a tourist resort has to be sustained and preserved.The concerned authorities in the Government are expected to act tough in the matter.