Nothing received under Green India, River Conservation Plans
JAMMU, Aug 12: Due to lackadaisical approach of all the concerned authorities, Jammu and Kashmir has failed to avail the benefits of three major schemes of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, which are aimed at ensuring afforestation of degraded forest lands, improving the quality of forest and reducing the pollution in rivers.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change is sanctioning funds to the States for plantation on the forest land under two Centrally Sponsored Schemes—-National Afforestation Programme and Green India Mission.
While National Afforestation Programme (NAP) is implemented for afforestation of degraded forest land, the Green India Mission (GIM) is aimed at improving the quality of forest/increase in forest cover besides across sectoral activities on landscape basis.
However, no seriousness has been shown towards availing the optimum benefits of these two schemes despite the fact that every single penny from any quarter is imperative for Jammu and Kashmir keeping in view massive deforestation owing to massive developmental activities, sources said.
They disclosed that during 2015-16 and 2016-17 financial years not even single penny was received by the State Government under National Afforestation Programme while as during 2017-18 financial year merely an amount of Rs 7.20 crore was received that too after the then Minister for Forests pulled up officers of the Forest Department for not approaching the Government of India with the projects for availing benefit of NAP.
During current financial year no funds have been received from the Union Ministry under NAP so far as the concerned authorities are supposed to furnish Utilization Certificate (UC) of the funds released during last financial year, sources said while disclosing that the concerned authorities were feeling complacent with the funds being released by Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority and were not showing interest in availing benefit of NAP too, which otherwise would have supplemented the afforestation activities up to large extent.
“The most shocking aspect is that State has never approached the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change for availing the benefit of Green India Mission. Due to this not even single penny could be obtained under the Mission till date”, sources further informed, adding had the benefit of GIM been obtained improving quality of forest would have received required impetus.
“Similarly, slackness is being shown in availing the benefit of National River Conservation Plan, which is aimed at reducing the pollution load in rivers through implementation of pollution abatement works”, sources said, adding “at least benefit of this Centrally Sponsored Scheme should have been obtained for reducing the pollution level in River Tawi by submitting a project proposal”.
They disclosed that no proposal has so far been submitted by the State Government in this regard to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.
When contacted, Commissioner Secretary to Government, Department of Forests, Environment and Ecology Saurabh Bhagat confirmed that no efforts were made in the past to avail the benefits of Centrally Sponsored Schemes of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Admitting that National Afforestation Programme is the basic window for availing so many other benefits, he disclosed that Rs 20 crore worth proposal has been submitted to the Union Ministry for forest fire prevention activities this year. “We are hopeful of clearance of our proposal by the Ministry and if this happens we will be in a position to start forest fire prevention activities on large scale”, he added.
It is pertinent to mention here that Union Ministry also takes care of forest fire prevention and management aspects and sanctions funds to the States to prevent destruction of forests. It has reliably been learnt that forest fires are one of the main reasons behind massive devastation of forest wealth in Jammu and Kashmir.
Responding to a question, he said, “we are initiating steps to avail benefit of all the Centrally Sponsored Schemes aimed at improving forest cover”.