Debilitated organs handling protection of forests, wildlife flora & fauna in J&K

Management of upcoming zoos to be a daunting task

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, May 30: Unbelievable it may sound but it is a fact that debilitated organs have been handling protection of forests and wildlife flora and fauna in Jammu and Kashmir, which are the major source of attraction for the tourists from across the country. Moreover, due to absolute non-seriousness of the Government, the situation has reached to such a level that even effectively and timely fighting the forest fires has become a daunting task for them.
These vital organs are—-Jammu and Kashmir Forest Protection Force and Wildlife Protection Department, which come under the overall administrative control of the Forest Department. The Forest Protection Force has an important role to play in checking illicit felling of trees, encroachments, poaching, forest fires and illegal extraction/transportation of forest products etc. Similarly, Wildlife Protection Department has the mandate to ensure protection of flora and fauna and management of protected areas in the State.
Both these vital wings of the Forest Department have been reeling under one or the another deficiency thereby finding it difficult to effectively meet the objectives behind their establishment, official sources told EXCELSIOR, adding “while deficiencies continue to impact the functioning of Forest Protection Force and Wildlife Protection Department during all these years the successive Governments instead of timely initiating the corrective measures allowed the shortcomings to persist as a result of which situation has assumed alarming proportion at present”.
“J&K Forest Protection Force, first of its kind in the country, was created on J&K Police pattern but is not being provided regular training which otherwise is imperative to enhance capability of its personnel for effectively enforcing the forest laws on the ground and better protection of forests and forest property”, they said, adding “no doubt the personnel of Forest Protection Force were initially trained in handling arms and ammunition but the weapons have not been provided to them, which otherwise are imperative for their own as well as safety of forests”.
“Keeping in view the duties required to be performed by the Forest Protection Force the number of personnel at present is also not sufficient”, sources informed while laying stress on providing modern training and weaponry to this force so as to ensure effective management of the forests particularly at a time when this precious wealth of the State is facing severe threat from all the quarters.
Stating that the condition of Wildlife Department is worst as compared to J&K Forest Protection Force, sources said, “the Wildlife Department is reeling under acute shortage of manpower during the past quite long time but no serious efforts were made to overcome this deficiency”, adding “the non-serious approach of the Government towards this department is notwithstanding the fact that department has to look after over 16000 square kilometer protected area like national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and conservation reserves”.
“How the Government can even imagine protection of flora and fauna in such a vast area through a department reeling under acute shortage of manpower remains a million dollar question”, sources said while disclosing that even major wildlife sanctuaries like Ramnagar Sanctuary in Jammu and world famous Dachigam National Park don’t have sufficient number of Wildlife Department personnel.
They further disclosed that even the upcoming zoos in Jammu and Srinagar would not have sufficient manpower if the Government fails to initiate timely steps to provide more manpower to the Wildlife Department. “Shockingly, the personnel of Wildlife Department are not fully trained to save flora and fauna during the forest fires”, they further said, adding “though the Forest Protection Force and Wildlife Department have almost similar role to play yet there is no synergy between them as a result of which forest areas suffer major damage during any incident of forest fire”.
When contacted, Commissioner Secretary to Government, Forest Department Saurabh Bhagat confirmed that Wildlife Protection Department and Forest Protection Force have been reeling under many deficiencies since long. “We are trying to obtain funds available under World Bank funded project to enhance the capability of these wings of the Forest Department under disaster management”, he said, adding “a proposal has also been mooted to transfer surplus manpower from State Forest Corporation to these two wings of the department”.
About the management of upcoming zoos, he said, “a proposal has been formulated for creation of manpower especially for these zoos so that sufficient and qualified manpower is put in place before the opening of these zoos for the common masses”.