Forests’ degradation and CAMPA accounts

A natural boon to man in the form of forests , in fact, take nothing from the man but keep giving only to it ; if they take any , it is again all from nature like rains, sunshine and air . It may be the fresh air , fodder for the cattle, different species of plants and shrubs most of them with medicinal values , firewood, flora and fauna, wild life, different species of birds and above all the tremendous role played to protect and preserve environment, forests play an unparalleled role and of unimaginable magnitude. That is in the form of affecting climate by removing large amounts of atmospheric carbon and purifying the air we breathe. However, that in itself being a very important and interesting subject must take us back to our great Indian civilization where forests were revered rather worshipped denoting how much important they were for the very survival of man and how should we preserve , protect and ”treat” them as against for quite some time when every type of pushes and pressures, drains and strains, exploitations and virtual loots of this wealth are going on with this greatest natural resource , that also unabatedly.
We fairly know that due to constant increase in population and consequent increased human needs leading to demand for more land and forest products and utilities , forests have been and still continue to be wantonly exploited . Degradation is the biggest blow that is caused to forests due to such massive exploitation without much being done to reverse such causes or in other words employing measures of ”repairing and restoring”. The most disturbing aspect is that forest cover thus degraded over a vast area during the process of lavishly or rather mercilessly overdrawing from such a unique natural resource, needs proper, sustained and even massive rehabilitation if we have to save what is now left of forests. Jammu and Kashmir forests suffering from the same maltreatment need such rehabilitation, compensation and replenishment at a faster rate. The question, however, is whether that is being really done ? Whatever forest area in its shrunken form we have in Jammu and Kashmir, as much as 23 percent of that even faces degradation due to various reasons in addition to the ones enumerated . We know forest land is diverted for various ”non-forest ” uses and there is a legislative provision too in the form of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) primarily for promoting regeneration and afforestation activities but little is known about its accounts and proper utilization. Equally, much less is known how much these accounts were optimally utilised with encouraging results.
While dealing with the issue late last year, we had voiced our concern about the CAMPA accounts not up-dated, annual reports not prepared nor audits completed which situation continues even now, with not much improvement. Hence, how and what has been spent and the outcome thereof, is not known as to what extent levels of degradation have been reversed and repaired. A vast area of forest land ,estimated to be over 4520 square kilometres faces degradation of various stages , hence, has otherwise been duly recommended for the ”treatment” of rehabilitation while the cycle of degradation and abasement of more areas continues. That means the ”treatment process” has to be kept going in a missionary zeal if situation of a worsening nature has to be averted.
Grazing activities commensurate with constant increase in livestock in the UT are being met with largely from the forests which on the scientific analysis has reached the over maximal levels as the ”overdrawing ” limit are six times as much of their capacity. Over grazing has resulted in having a telling effect on coniferous trees as they are the choicest in grazing especially by goats etc and, therefore, require regeneration too with the same speed. Needless to add, though some quantum of dry fodder and the like is imported from adjacent states but that caters to just a negligible demand having no relieving bearing on the pressure on forest grazing. Let the efforts, therefore, be redoubled in areas where protective measures are to be taken to address the issue of fast degradation of forests , comprehensive regeneration plans and strategies be evolved, outsourcing of auditing of CAMPA accounts be done vis-a-vis empanelled audit firms by the CAG and the ongoing audits be imparted a pace so that annual reports with all critical information with achievements and tasks ahead are all known. We have to save what is left of this greatest natural resource for our own survival especially of the younger generations.