*With the onset of militancy post-1989, even the symbolic checks disappeared
*Forest Guards and Foresters did not go into the remote areas
*Militancy used as shield by Forest Guards, Foresters
*Irreparable damage has been done and consequences are not hard to see
*Uncontrolled deforestation in upper reaches directly hits centuries-old livelihood
CM’S RESHUFFLE FAILS TO PUT AN IMPACT
TIME TO ACT: Need is to enforce changes at the bottom not at the top because it has been learned that the corruption prevails maximum at the bottom level and every nexus is run with the involvement of bottom level field officers. The CM has done its part well now the turn is of Forest Department officers to enforce complete reshuffle of the Forest Guards and Foresters so the Green Gold which is very vital for the human existence can be saved.
By Ajmer Alam Wani
JAMMU, OCT 4: Though the young Chief Minister (CM) of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah has realized the importance of Green Gold and its impact on environment thus took a bold decision a couple of days before to reshuffle the entire top brass of the forest department yet the problems lies at its root. The CM’s bold initiative has completely failed to put any kind of impact on the mafia doing deforestation in the hilly terrains of Jammu and Kashmir. Reports pouring in from Chiralla Forest Range revealed that with the clouds in sky apprehending rains or snow fall, the Forest Mafia got activated again and many young green trees at their tender age were shortened to ground. Though for the last few days the practice was under control as the men of Forest Protection Force was active in the area but with the reshuffle even at the middle level of the protectors of Green Gold seem have gone in to a deep sleep again and the Forest Mafia has woke up threatening environment and ecological balance.
Reports said that on Sunday evening many Deodar and Pine trees have been cut down in Compartments No’s 1 to 9 at some places Zila–di-Pani, Butt Pora and Malik Pora etc besides a part of the Green Forest has been set ablaze in Panchrove area of the Chiralla Forest Range.
Relevant to mention here that the Chiralla Forest Range has become very sensitive range of Bhaderwah Forest Division as some volunteers have stood up against the deforestation for the last few months and Forest Mafia which include many with criminal background have started challenging the volunteers if they can stop the cutting of Green Gold in the area.
Some volunteers said that when the concerned Forester was informed about the anti nature crime, he instead of acting preferred to switch off his mobile which has become his style since deputed in the area.
How unfortunate is this that some responsible people have realized the importance of green forests and are fighting for saving the green trees from cutting by raising their voice but the concerned department officers on which Government invests crores of rupees every year, plays the role of a mute spectator and turn deaf ears. If the forests protectors continued such practice, than who will save these forests on which mankind is dependent for survival?
Worth mentioning here, the roots are very deep but the measure were either half hearted or just hollow slogans written on papers to extract the maximum on the name of forest and nature protection. With the onset of militancy post-1989, even the symbolic checks disappeared. The Forest Guards and foresters would not go into the remote areas controlled by militants and plundering of forest wealth began, particularly in Doda district, by paying off the militants. Irreparable damage was done and consequences are not hard to see. Uncontrolled deforestation of several decades in the upper reaches directly hits at the centuries-old livelihood of the Gujjars and Bakerwals, now declared as a Scheduled Tribe (ST) by the Central Government. Gujjars are the main suppliers of milk and milk-related products in the State, while the Bakerwals rear sheep and are dependant on products like wool and meat. The estimated cattle population of Jammu and Kashmir was recorded as 31, 75, 000 according to the 1997 census. The State’s milk production was 6.66 metric tones and there was no room for increase with the decline in grazing area. The high-valued milk-related products like Cheese, Kaladi (similar to Dutch Cheese) are already in short supply. Besides the decrease in fodder, the inhabitants in the hilly areas continued losing other means of livelihood. For instance, the expensive Gooshhis, a type of mushroom sold for Rs 8,000 a kg in the open market, and natural herbs found in forests belt were abundant in the Siraj area of Doda district, but are no longer found easily. Once upon a time a resident of higher reaches of Doda district used to collect three kg of Gooshhis but today one is hardly able to collect half kg. The declining forest belt has also left its mark on the wildlife in the State. For instance leopards and tigers found in the higher reaches are feeling the pinch. For the last few years wild animals have started intruding into populated areas and frequent incidents of Man-Animal conflict are reported in which sometimes human beings are becoming victims of the wild animals while some times wild animals are being killed which is a clear indicator of the impact of the declining forests and interference of man in wild habitations. Absence of any grassroots movement to save forests may have pushed the issue under the carpet, but the State’s rural and subsistence economy demands immediate intervention. Not only does the governance need to improve to stop further plundering of the forest, people’s participation is the key to save the greenery of this hilly state.