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EditorialStop vandalizing forest

Stop vandalizing forest


Stop vandalizing forest

From epithet of thickly forest state to now a state with depleted forest has deprived and Kashmir of its prideful position at national level.  The forests of Jammu and Kashmir like other parts of the country have been under tremendous Biotic pressure. Almost over 7,000 square kilometer area has become degraded out of total 20230 sq kilometer forest area as per an estimate carried a decade ago which constituted nearly 20 per cent of the total geographical area of the state. It is worthwhile to mention that in Jammu and Kashmir, the forests are largely distributed in Kashmir province and Jammu region only.

The most common reason of the speedy degradation and shrinking of forest is mafia eating up state, forest land. The state in general and the Jammu region in particular are reeling under the threat of land mafia as every now and then incidents of illegal land encroachments, mostly of forest lands are coming to fore. Out of the existing forest cover, about 14359 ha of forest land has been encroached upon by land mafia. The forests under encroachment in the Kashmir and Jammu region are 4877 ha and 9482 ha, respectively that stood brazenly cleared of all trees and shrubs by the encroachers.

's record of taking legal and effective action against the culprits is very poor. Even as commits itself at global forums to ambitious targets for afforestation to stave off catastrophic damage to the , figures compiled by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change speak of shocking extent of felling of trees across the country for private profit. The figures as recently reported in the national media show that ‘detected' illegal felling has claimed at least 11 lakh trees in three years across 15 states and two Union territories (UTs).

National scenario is no exception to this menace. It is inconceivable that there has been no illegal felling in these areas. That they are getting away with this no-reporting on such a vital yardstick of impending disaster is in itself shocking in the extreme. It is alarming indeed that a total of 10.8 lakh trees from the 15 states and two UTs have been reported through 1.76 lakh cases to have been felled, at an average of six trees under each case.

Whatever the nature of tree felling, the loss to the environment remains grave. With such a record it stretches credibility to say that India would increase forest cover to 33 per cent of total area by 2030 from the current 21.34 per cent. This is nothing better than a pipe dream even though the country has committed a staggering US$ 6 billion to it over the next decade and a half. It goes without saying that this country needs to wake up to the need to augment its forest cover on a war footing or else we would be bequeathing to our future generations a scary scenario of environmental disasters.

If the damage is to be prevented or staved off substantially, the punishment for illegally felling and auctioning for profit would have to be exemplary in terms of deterrence. There is indeed a huge shortage of staff to guard India's forests and tree cover and this needs the urgent attention of Central and State governments. The violators are powerful and often organized into mafias so the staff must be actively and effectively guarded from attacks.

There was a recent case of the National Green Tribunal slapping a fine of Rs 15 lakh on a former sarpanch and the secretary of Taparwara panchayat in Nagaur district of Maharashtra and directing the state government to initiate an inquiry against a district forest officer for illegally cutting and auctioning thousands of trees. This was a rare case of exemplary punishment where the fine was 10 times the value of the profit made by the defaulter. One can only hope that there would be more such verdicts and the courts would decide quickly and come down hard on the mafias. More stringent punishment needs to be legislated and special courts set up to punish culprits involved in the illegal felling of trees.

There indeed are lessons galore to be learnt from the past and the country can ill afford not to learn them. The rape of the environment by unscrupulous traders must be stopped forthwith. While deforestation and denuding of forests must be defeated, planting of new trees and their proper maintenance must be undertaken with due earnestness.


The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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