Afforestation drives to take people on board; eco-tourism, propagation of aromatic, medicinal plants to be thrust areas
Forest Dept to fully meet timber needs of people living in concessional zones
Taking first big step towards revisiting the State’s Forest Policy so that it is in tune with the concerns and expectations of all stakeholders, Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, today unveiled a new blueprint to conserve State’s depleting forest wealth by encouraging people’s participation in afforestation drives, identifying eco-tourist destinations and commercial propagation of highly-remunerative medicinal plants.
He also directed the Forest Department to fully meet the timber requirement of those persons who live in concessional zones in close proximity of forests. “I want people’s active and voluntary participation in protection and management of forest wealth so that they realize its significance and become its guardians,” he stated.
The Chief Minister gave these directions while chairing a high-level review meeting on the working of the State Forest Department. The department has been asked to submit a Comprehensive Plan by July 31 for implementation of the directions given by the Chief Minister.
Deputy Chief Minister, Dr. Nirmal Singh, Minister for CA&PD and Tribal Affairs, Ch. Zulfkar, Minister for Forest, Ecology & Environment and Social Welfare, Bali Baghat, Minister of State for PHE, I&FC, Animal Husbandry& Forests, Abdul Majeed Padder, Principal Secretary, Planning, B. R. Sharma, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, B. B. Vyas, Principal Secretary, Forests, Rakesh Gupta, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, A. K. Singh, Secretary, CA&PD and Tribal Affairs, Saurabh Baghat, besides several other senior officers attended the meeting.
Asking the Forest Officers to change their mindset, the Chief Minister stressed upon the Department to take effective steps for people’s involvement in protection, sustenance and growth of forests. He also asked the Department to prepare 10-15 Pilot Projects where villagers are involved in massive plantation drives on denuded forests. “We can never protect green wealth if people living in and around the forests are at daggers drawn with the Forest Department,” he stated.
Highlighting the huge potential in cultivation of aromatic & medicinal plants and the need for diversification, Mufti Sayeed asked the department to encourage youth, who have passion for agro-based industries, to become venture entrepreneurs. “J&K has great diversity of rare herbs and life-saving medicinal plants in its forests, which can be commercially propagated for huge economic returns,” he said and indicated to the Forest Department to engage experts and consultants for adopting best practices.
Placing high priority on promotion of eco-tourism, Mufti Sayeed directed the Forest Department to adopt certain locations which can be developed as eco-tourist sites. For this, he pointed out the huge potential of Bangus valley, in Kupwara district, which the Forest Department can tap in developing it as a major eco destination for high-end tourists.
While appreciating the measures taken on promotion of eco-tourism in Ladakh by involving local populace, the Chief Minister stressed upon taking similar initiatives in other parts of the state.
For safeguarding the forests, a high-level Committee headed by Deputy Chief Minister was constituted with Minister of Forest, Ecology & Environment, Minister for CA&PD and Tribal Affairs along with the Administrative Secretaries of Forest & Tribal Affairs departments, as its Members. The Committee has been tasked to examine all connected issues related to protection and management of the State’s forests.
Earlier, the Chief Minister was briefed about various steps taken by the Forest Department to conserve our green gold. He was informed that the department is laying great stress on rejuvenating the 40 per cent degraded forest land and steps being taken to save forests from impact of hydel power projects being constructed in the state, especially in Chenab Valley region.
Principal Secretary, Forests, also highlighted the progress the state has made in Compulsory Afforestation Fund Management & Planning Authority (CAMPA). He also presented a detailed overview of the strategy formulated for protection of forests by reconciling records, using modern techniques like GPS and GIS.
The Chief Minister was informed that almost 50 per cent of the timber needs in the State are now being met out of imported supplies. J&K imports nearly 44.5 lakh cu ft of timber on an annual basis.