Scientific management of green cover

While on the one hand, there are ambitious plans of bringing in two thirds of the geographical area of Jammu and Kashmir under forest cover, on the other hand, we do not find any sustainable and concrete proposal and proper planning for achieving that goal. How can we dispute that merely less than 11 percent of the total area of the UT is covered by forests , dense ones comprising quite negligible area. Forests, whether in preventing unauthorised felling of trees or ”capturing” its areas for commercial, residential or even developmental activities, the process of preventing and replenishing measures is found being outpaced , if not being negligible. Had this fact been seriously known and duly valued that Jammu and Kashmir having been gifted by the benevolent nature with diverse forests full of rich green gold and being part of ecology ,livelihood, centre of attraction of tourism and cultural heritage , the position would have been not dismal as it, in fact, is though efforts to paint it cosmetically bright may be tried hard .
Added to all these unfavourable but avoidable facets of our forest cover is the menace of rampant forest fires that intermittently keep on raging for days together while there being no effective mechanism to put it out in time. Well, it is encouraging to note that a study has been conducted into the entire gamut of fires in the forest and compartmentalisation has been done by the experts in terms of degrees of vulnerabilities to fire. The same varies as between forests in Kashmir region and those in Jammu and in totality, it is nearly over 50 per cent that is a potential vulnerable area to fires. However, exact cause of such fires has still not been enumerated and as regards wanton straying into jungles unauthorised(ly) and lighting fires for certain purposes or even throwing cigarette / bedi butts randomly or burning fallen tree leaves etc too can cause massive fires . Sabotage and other nefarious activities to hide and to destroy evidence of tree count too could become causes of raging fires in forests in some cases.
The problem attains its own serious dimensions, to start with – any loss to green cover by fires cannot be compensated and replenished by employing faster means which in case of a burnt building or a bridge or any other asset not natural, could be achieved. Nature takes its own time and a period of at least 5 to 10 years minimum is required for a tree to grow as we have in our forests trees like fir coniferous , Budul, pine, cedar, Shishum, Khair, Dhaman etc which take even 20 years or more to grow full. In other words, it denotes that preventing a catastrophe like a fire in forests must be avoided at all costs . Lieutenant Governor , Manoj Sinha, therefore, directing the Forest Department to conduct planning for scientific management of our green cover must find on priority measures , both preventive and post incidental, to tackle the incidents or accidents of fires in forests. It needs to be noted with due care that even in most advanced countries, raging fires in forests are not controlled easily and till the moment massive destruction is caused . Under such circumstances, not only should latest techniques and measures be put in place to douse these fires but increased surveillance and proper impregnable fencing of entry points of forests be also considered.
The report and recommendations of Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing , therefore, needs to be properly gone deep into by the Forest Department and associated departments and studies made even beyond that so that Action Plans could be formulated to effectively prevent and control forest fires in which during the last few years, conspicuous increase in incidents have taken place. Again, a clear distinction has to be made as regards the causes thereof and how much the same were due to absolute natural causes and reasons and how many due to deliberate and accidental human intervention. Most of the problems, cannot be addressed as we do not have adequate and latest data available which in the case of rich green gold cover must not be found wanting in.