Saving our forests and rivers

How much are the Government authorities concerned about our forests having greatly suffered on account of considerable damage during the last three decades? Conservative figures put the decline due to illegal felling of trees and other encroachments of forests between 25 to 30 percent. A new dimension of forest fires into the entire sensitive issue is a cause of grave concern as that leads to wanton destruction and devastation of forests while we haplessly watch the disaster.Many forests with thick groves of trees and inhabited with wild animals stand deforested and replenishments are too meager to cope with the rate of deforestation and decline in the quality of forests. Eviction process from encroached forest lands, on the other hand, is facing resistance from political and influential circles and often given a communal spin. Our rivers are day by day becoming increasingly polluted right under our nose.
To address these vital issues related not only to various industries, chiefly tourism and our very survival in the long run, the State Government has its limitations for not being in a position to bring about any sustainable remedial results but when the Central Government wants to help States through various schemes launched by its Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, why should the Government of Jammu and Kashmir not avail of the same to its optimal levels? The three major schemes aimed at afforestation of degraded forest lands, improving the quality of forests and reducing the pollution in rivers respectively, are having funds component to help States. These funds are exclusively meant for plantation on the forest land which are under two Centrally Sponsored Schemes,namely NationalAfforestation Programme and Green India Mission.
The reasons as to why choicest benefits of these two schemes were not availed of by the State authorities is hard to comprehend especially in the context of the perpetual financial constraints experienced by the Government and thus being unable literally in even not affording to lose a single penny and secondly, keeping in view massive deforestation taking place in the State. National Afforestation Programme, it may be reiterated, is implemented for afforestation of degraded forest land, while the ‘Green India Mission’ is aimed at improving the quality of forests and increase in forest cover and allied activities on landscape basis.
During current financial year, the State has received no funds from the Union Ministry under National Afforestation Programme because concerned State authorities could not furnish the utilization certificate to ensure proper desired end use in respect of funds released last year. The State, in most of the cases, has yet to get acclimatized with the simple rule of where and how the funds received were spent. Unless the utilization certificates were periodically submitted, back to back funds support from the Union Ministries could neither be expected nor claimed as a matter of right.
It is either those funds were not utilized for the requisite purpose or were diverted to meet other more “pressing” needs. The concerned authorities were reportedly feeling quite complacent with the funds released by Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority and were not showing interest in availing benefit which would otherwise have resulted in a lot of improvement in afforestation activities in Jammu and Kashmir.Here the question arises as to whether it is left to the whims and fancies of these “complacent and non- caring” authorities to act in a way which could even prove detrimental to the interests of the State.
It is equally despairing that the State has never approached the concerned Union Ministry for availing benefits under Green India Mission while we should have embarked upon “Green Jammu and Kashmir Mission” on our own in an aggressive way involving one and all to value, preserve, protect, expand and improve (the quality) of our forests to claim eligibility in seeking not only our share from the funds under centrally sponsored schemes but to clamor for an increase therein.
Could the authorities in the State administration explain as to what interest they keenly took and burnt midnight oil in making result oriented efforts in reducing the pollution levels in our rivers? The list of the slew of measures backed by the series of benefits derived under National River Conservation Plan availed of by our State, may be made known? It is shocking that not only is the horse to be taken to the well but made to drink as well, rather water forced down its throat is a befitting analogy in respect of how the authorities have shown their response to the centrally sponsored schemes aimed at bettering the lot of our dwindling forests and our polluted rivers.