*Concern for green gold remains confined to official statements
JAMMU, Feb 17: Though afforestation is imperative to mitigate the negative impact of forest land diversion, which is taking place at a large scale in Jammu and Kashmir because of varied reasons including development activities, yet meager financial resources are creating hurdles in re-establishment of forest cover thereby making it clear that concern for green gold remains confined to the official statements of the PDP-BJP Coalition Government.
The forests are considered very important as they render ecological services that cannot be quantified. Moreover, healthy forests add to the wealth and health of a nation but at the same time there are certain development imperatives that necessitate that forests be cut for a project that is considered as essential for large good of the society.
It is because of this necessity diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes is continuously taking place that too at a large scale in Jammu and Kashmir during the past several years. However, pace of afforestation is not up to the mark only because of meager financial resources despite the tall claims of the present dispensation about conservation of green gold wealth of the State.
This can be gauged from the official document, the copy of which is available with EXCELSIOR. Even in this document, the Forest Department has admitted that it is administering forest area of 20.23 lakh hectares with meager financial resources.
The afforestation is carried out by the Forest Department with funds made available under State Sector, District Sector, National Afforestation Programme and Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) etc.
As per the document, the financial resources for the afforestation have been reduced considerably during the past four years thereby leaving adverse impact on this vital exercise, which otherwise is imperative in the maintenance of ecological balance and environmental stability.
During the financial year 2013-14, an amount of Rs 223 crore was made available from all the resources for afforestation of nude forest areas and by utilizing this amount Forest Department treated 13603 hectares of area by planting 93.05 lakh plants.
However, during the financial year 2014-15, the allocation was reduced to Rs 80.60 crore as a result of which only 8447.53 hectares of forest area could be covered under afforestation drive by planning merely 55.87 lakh plants. In 2015-16, the financial resources were squeezed to Rs 58.47 crore due to which only 8015 hectares of area could be taken up for afforestation.
The intensity of continuous decline in financial assistance for the afforestation purpose can be gauged from the fact that during the current financial year (up to ending December 2016) an amount of only Rs 17.56 crore was made available for this vital exercise as a result of which only 3126 hectares of area could be taken up and only 8.23 lakh plants were planted.
Since National Afforestation Programme (NAP) is funded by the Government of India, work programme for an amount of Rs 1335.45 lakh was submitted by the State Government for the year 2016-17 but the funds are still awaited from the Centre.
“All this indicates that concern for the conservation of green gold and ensuring fast pace afforestation to mitigate the negative impact of forest land diversion has remained confined to the official statements only”, sources said.
They further said, “by not keeping enough funds at the disposal of the Forest Department for this imperative exercise the State Government is not only creating impediments in maintenance of the forest cover of the State but also contributing to ecological imbalance whose impact is being witnessed in each and every area of Jammu and Kashmir”.
About the success rate of the plantation, sources said that as per the third party monitoring carried out by NABCON the average percentage plantation survival in different parts of Jammu and Kashmir is 70 approximately. “This indicates that if adequate funds are made available for afforestation exercise the Forest Department will be able to maintain ecological balance up to the required level during the next four-five years”, they added.