Srinagar: In yet another example of official apathy, the states forest cover has declined from 22,686 sq km in 2007 to 22,538 sq km in 2013.
As per the data provided by the Statistics division of the Forest Department of Kashmir, the state in 2007 (Oct-Dec) had a forest cover of 22, 686 sq.kms, of which 4160 sq. kms were dense forestland, 8,780 sq.kms moderately dense forests and 9639 sq.kms open forestland.
The forest cover constituted 10.14% of the total geographical area of the state. Reports show that till 2011, the forest cover was 22,539 sq. kms but in 2013 the forest cover was reduced to 22,538 sq.kms. However, there is no data available with the department for the years 2014 and 2015.
As per the records of the Forest Department of the state, the state has undergone tremendous deforestation in the past five years and has lost most of its forest land comprising of coniferous trees like pine, walnut, fir, spruce, willow, elm, poplar and woodlands of cedar (deodar). In 2013, the Forest Survey of India reported that the states forest cover is less than 33 per cent of its total area, as prescribed by the National Forest Policy in 1988.
In 2011, about 112 projects were allowed to come up on 266.121 hectares of Forest land. For this purpose 214.776 ha of forest land was cleared by the state in 2012 followed by 414.106 ha of forest land conversion in 2013.
According to the Jammu and Kashmir Forest Department, the state has lost as much as 12,025 hqrs of forest land since 1991, when the initial Forest Conservation Act of the state was enacted. Out of the 12,025 ha of cleared forest land, about 9,730 ha have been cleared in Jammu, while 2,295 ha have been cleared in Kashmir.
An official, requesting anonymity, said, Before the enactment of the Forest Act, the centre had given away a lot of forest land. This resulted in decrease in the forest cover of the state. About 70 percent of the forests have been cleared in the last five years for roads, hydropower projects and transmission lines. Most of these projects have been sanctioned for various schemes like Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, PWD and Border Roads organisation. Around 9-10 agencies, including the Army and BRO, have made defaulted payments worth crores to the forest department as compensation.
Chief Conservator Forests, Kashmir, Mr. Nisar Ahmad Darzi, on being asked about what his department was doing to safeguard the forest land of the state said, In 2015, our department seized 12628 cfts of timber, 42 vehicles, 81 horses and 2 boats. An amount of Rs 4.920 lakh has been realised against the confiscated timber. As many as 155.45 Ha of forest land has been categorised in 12 divisions of the Valley. The department will plant 13.56 lakh plants over 1045 hectares of forest land in 56 compartments under CAMPA this year. We are also working hard to release the land from many agencies and there is going to be digitisation of revenue records so that we know exactly how much land has been encroached and how much of it is to be retrieved.
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