*Environ degradation least priority for many MLAs
JAMMU, Nov 29: Taking serious note of continuous soil erosion in many parts of the Kishtwar district despite plantation of whopping 16 lakh trees, Committee on Environment of J&K Legislative Assembly has constituted a panel headed by Deputy Commissioner to dig out the truth and submit report within a period of 15 days. The House Committee has also decided to seek details from the Chief Conservator of Forests so as to ascertain what results the compulsory afforestation has actually yielded in the district.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that Committee on Environment during its visit to different parts of Kishtwar has come across several complaints vis-à-vis continuous soil erosion in the areas in the vicinity of Dul Hasti project reservoir. The Committee has also received complaints regarding soil erosion in those areas which were provided road connectivity under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).
While taking meeting of district officers at Kishtwar today, the Committee on Environment came to know that Social Forestry Department planted around 16 lakh trees to stabilize soil in the vicinity of Dul Hasti power project and in numerous other areas where rural roads were constructed under Union Government’s flagship scheme of PMGSY, sources said while disclosing that Committee wondered as to how soil erosion can continue despite plantation of such a large number of trees.
One of the special invitees to the meeting pointed out that no proper treatment of the catchment area of Dul Hasti reservoir has been carried out as a result of which soil erosion in many areas has become a regular phenomenon, sources said.
It is pertinent to mention here that there are laid down guidelines for compulsory afforestation to compensate the loss of the trees during execution of any major project and funds were earmarked for this exercise in the areas in the vicinity of Dul Hasti project. Even sufficient funds were kept at the disposal of the Social Forestry Department to compensate the loss of trees during construction of rural roads in the Kishtwar district.
Noting that ground situation was not in consonance with the plantation figures provided by the officers, the Committee on Environment constituted a committee headed by Deputy Commissioner Kishtwar to dig out the truth and submit report within next 15 days, sources said, adding the Committee has also decided to seek information from the Chief Conservator of Forests to ascertain the results yielded by compulsory afforestation in Kishtwar district and the funds actually utilized for the purpose.
When contacted, Chairman of the Committee on Environment, G M Saroori, who is MLA from Inderwal constituency, said, “we have not seen such a large number of trees having been planted by the Social Forestry Department. There are apprehensions about mis-utilization of funds meant for compulsory afforestation as such there is a need to look into this aspect”, adding “since numerous power projects are coming up in the district there is a dire need to go in for compulsory afforestation at large scale to check adverse impact of the developmental activities on the environment”.
Meanwhile, it has come to the fore that environment degradation is least priority for numerous MLAs, who are members of Committee on Environment, as they preferred to ignore visit to erstwhile Doda district despite advanced intimation from the Chairman of the panel.
During Committee’s visit to Ramban district yesterday only four Members—Dr Krishan Lal, Neelam Kumar Langeh, Gulzar Ahmad Wani and Mumtaz Ahmad were accompanying the Chairman and rest of the 14 members preferred not to be part of the visit. Similarly, during Kishtwar visit only three MLAs were present.
“No doubt there is no provision regarding compulsory participation of Committee members in its visits, the participation of only four MLAs clearly indicates that environment degradation is least priority for many legislators”, sources said, adding “ecological balance is more important subject for an area like erstwhile Doda district where numerous power and road projects are coming up and leaving adverse impact on the environment”.
Moreover, the mandate of Committee on Environment is to check indiscriminate utilization of natural resources and erstwhile Doda district carries immense importance on this front, sources said, adding “the members of Committee should not shy away from visiting different areas as the purpose of House Committee is to look into the environmental issues of whole of the State and not of a specific district or area as such avoiding being part of the visits amounts to non-seriousness towards the important subject”.