JAMMU, Jan 21: Minister for Forest, Environment and Ecology, Choudhary Lal Singh today said the innovative measures initiated by the Government would take forest and its allied wings to new heights and it will also bring positive transformation on the ground in increasing forest cover and conserving the ecology of the State. He said over 2801.23 hectares of forest land of total recorded encroachment of 14345 hectares has been retrieved during nearly three years.
Winding up the discussion in the Legislative Assembly on Demands for Grants of Forest Department including Ecology, Environment and Pollution Control Board, the Minister said several measures have been taken to make functioning of the department accountable, transparent and result-oriented.
Enumerating the initiatives launched by the Government, the Minister said department has embarked on many new programmes, including establishment of hi-tech nurseries and upgradation of existing nurseries for production of quality planting stocks with a vision of raising 15 crore saplings annually. He said DPR for beautification of National Highway (NH1-A/), railway line through plantations, creation of green corridors, plantation around Ranjit Sagar, Baglihar Dams and other water bodies have also been formulated.
He also informed that promotion of rotational grazing and eco-tourism, nature tourism is a priority for the Government. He said the government won’t allow breach of the forest rights of tribal communities and called for active contribution of such communities in conservation of forests. He also said plantation of fruit trees amidst forest plantations would reduce man-animal conflict.
The Minister said that conservation of Wullar Lake besides, many other lakes and water bodies in the State is the topmost priority of the Government.
He said that as per a study conducted by Directorate of Ecology & Environment, a total of 1230 big and small lakes and water bodies exist in the State of J&K with 425 in Kashmir province, 150 in Jammu and 665 in Ladakh region.
Giving details about the forest land encroachment, Singh said that Government has devised a plan for fencing the forest areas.”We need estimated Rs 8000 crore for conservation of forest resources including fencing, but with the current resources we will start fencing around the areas which are vulnerable for encroachments”, he added.
The Minister said that according to Working Plan, Jammu and Kashmir has 20230 km forest area covering 19.95 per cent geographical area the State and the department has taken strict measures to remove encroachment from the forest area as part of its drive against the encroachment. Over 2801.23 hectares of forest land of total recorded encroachment of 14345 hectares has been retrieved during nearly three years, he added.
Elaborating further, the Minister said that in addition, Forest Department has also retrieved 2903.65 hectares unrecorded/freshly encroached land across Jammu region and 205 hectares in Jammu city and its outskirts, in last 2 years.
The Minister informed that a Draft Policy for Chief Minister’s participatory forest development and usufructs sharing has been submitted to the administrative department for the approval. He said the draft policy aims at carrying out afforestation and other forest development works in the forest fringe areas with the active involvement of the local people.
The Minister said that Government is doing every bit to retrieve the original habitation Hangul and steps are underway to shift the Sheep Breeding Farm from the Dachigam National Park.
Earlier, initiating the discussion, Shah Mohammad Tantray urged the Government to take necessary measures for protection, conservation and preservation of forests in the State. He also called for providing forest rights to Gujjar, Bakerwal and other nomadic communities.
Hakeem Mohammad Yaseen said proper disposal of biomedical waste is a critical concern and the Government needs to take necessary steps to devise a permanent mechanism for the same. He urged the Government to take concrete measures to curb the menace of encroachment of forests.
Usman Abdul Majid urged the Government to take measures to make optimum use of various precious herbal resources available in the State’s forests.
Choudhary Sukhnandan Kumar urged the Government for imposing ban on polythene to save the environment. He also called for launching massive Sheesham tree plantation drive in Jammu.
Mohammad Akbar Lone raised the issue of Wullar Conservation Project and demanded rehabilitation of families affected due to the project.
Raja Manzoor Ahmad called for a comprehensive policy to reduce the man-animal conflict. He demanded for early regularization of casual laborers, need basis and daily wagers.
Dina Nath Bhagat said demarcation of forest land is imperative to save the forests from encroachment and demanded the Government for early demarcation of forest land in the State.
Bashir Ahmad Dar said there should be stricter laws to curb timber smuggling and called for comprehensive policy to reduce the man-animal conflict.
MY Tarigami stressed the need for preservation, protection and conservation of forests. He said the Government should take steps to increase forest cover in the State. He demanded for strengthening of Forest Protection Force and asked for giving forest protection rights to the people living near the forests especially the tribal population. He urged for early demarcation of forest land in the State.
Jewan Lal said that people living near forests should be given forest rights and urged the Government to provide them timber at concessional rates.
Vikar Rasool Wani urged Government for timely issuance of No Objection Certificates as well as forest clearance to the concerned regarding construction of National Highway Road project from Ramban-Banihal-Kashmir.
Pawan Kumar Gupta urged the Government for massive plantation drive on available forest land especially on diluted hills of Udhampur district. He also advocated for preservation and conservation of water bodies of the State. He urged the Government for proper utilization of CAMPA funds.
Shamim Firdous also demanded for plantation drive on available forest lands. She pleaded for preservation of water bodies.
Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari urged the Government for timely issuance of forest clearance for construction of road projects. He also demanded for issuance of timber to 2014 flood victims.
Gulzar Ahmad Wani urged the Government to issue firewood to all Masjids in Shangus Constituency.
Devinder Kumar Manyal urged the Government for massive plantation drive in the State. He demanded the Government for giving permission for construction of shed at Degree College Samba.
Mumtaz Ahmad Khan urged the Government for providing liberal funding under CAMPA in his constituency.
Abdul Majid Padder said that there is lack of coordination between Forest Department officials and State Forest Corporation which needs to be addressed.
Javid Ahmad Rana said the grievances of tribal people need to be redressed. He also pleaded for preservation and conservation of water bodies and demanded for preparing a comprehensive plan to safeguard forests.
Ravinder Raina pleaded the Minister for setting up colonies for nomadic population. He urged for developing Mangla Mata Shrine in his constituency on the lines of Mata Vaishno Devi.
Abdul Rahim Rather pleaded for launching the new Rehbar-e-Janglaat scheme in the state to recruit educated unemployed youth having degree of Forestry.
Abdul Majid Larmi pleaded the Minister for rationalization of funds allocated under CAMPA.
Mubarak Gul asked for restoring the water level in Wullar Lake and asked for regular monitoring of the same.
Altaf Ahmed Wani pleaded for rationalization of Forest Department staff working in his constituency besides advocating for providing adequate timber and fire wood to the people in the area.