Vandalising forests, officially
Govt Buildings Coming Up In New City Forest
ARIF SHAFI WANI
Budgam, Mar 24: At a time when Kashmir is fast losing its forest cover to unabated felling of trees, the Forest Department is helplessly watching the construction of concrete buildings inside the New City Forest at Ompora here.
Ironically, the constructions in the established forestry unit were being undertaken by the Social Forestry Department, which is meant to preserve the forests.
Incidentally, the foundation stone of the district office complex for the Soil Conservation Department was laid in the forest enclosure by its senior officials in a glittering function Tuesday.
According to sources, scores of trees planted in mid-nineties on the denuded hillock, were slated to be mowed down to facilitate the construction of the office complex. This has raised eyebrows with environmentalists blaming the department of vandalizing the forest.
Sources said the permission for construction was “in blatant violation” of rules governing Forest Act. Meanwhile, the Minister for Forests Mian Altaf has assured to look into the matter and review the permission.
Pertinently, the Government through the Pir Panchal Forest Division had in 1995-96 conducted massive eco-restoration of the denuded hillock and Karewas on Humhama by planting various tree-species including Robinia, Deodar, Kail and Cypresses.
Within a short span of time, the hillock had bloomed into a forest and was named as New City Forest Ompora. Official sources said the unit had become a grand success story of hi-tech eco-restoration in Kashmir and a source of attraction for nature lovers and researchers.
A team of Norwegian scientists had visited the area in 2005. They had appreciated the efforts of the Forest Department in developing the hillock as a man-made forest.
Presently a concrete building of the Social Forestry was coming up in the Forest enclosure. However environmentalists maintain that an established forestry unit cannot be used for non-forestry use.
“Any constructions in forests will definitely affect the trees. The trees are like lungs and help to replenish oxygen and control winds. If the forests continue to face the onslaught, the Valley will face dust storms. Instead of building offices in forests, the authorities should compensate the losses due to felling of trees, based on the ratio between the State’s geographical area and the forest cover,” said Dr Mubashir Jeelani, an environmentalist.
The Valley Citizens’ Council which was spearheading a campaign to preserve environment has expressed resentment over what it said Government’s non-seriousness to protect the forests.
“On one hand, the Government has launched a plantation drive and on the other it is allowing vandalizing of its established forestry unit by constructing offices in it. We are gradually losing the green gold to timber smuggling. Government needs to take stringent measures to save the forests for posterity,” said VCC general secretary, Imdad Saqi.
The Minister of Forests, Mian Altaf said he will look into the matter. “If there are constructions going on or proposed in the New City Forest, I will personally check out who permitted it and what would be its impact on the forest. We won’t allow any activity that is detrimental to the forests. Government is committed to save the green-gold,” Altaf maintained.
Incidentally, experts have been warning that the unabated felling of trees can trigger a major ecological disaster in the Valley. Environmentalists link the felling of trees with the depletion of snow cover and increasing temperatures in the Valley.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Mar 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Mar 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 25 Mar 2010 00:00:00 IST
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