Govt to arm FPF personnel
ALTAF UNVEILS NEW FOREST POLICY
GK NEWS NETWORK
Jammu, Jan 31: Minister for Forest and Environment, Mian Altaf Ahmed, on Monday said the government has decided to crack its whip on timber smugglers by providing arms to the Forest Protection Force (FPF) in the most critical forest sectors of Pir Panchal ranges and Shopian.
“The department is procuring new weapons and we have already purchased some of them. These are lying with the Home Department. The arming of FPF men in the most critical forest sectors of Pir Panchal ranges and Shopian in Kashmir Valley would check the timber smuggling and felling of green trees,” Mian Altaf told reporters while unveiling the J&K State Forest Policy 2010 here.
He added that in the first phase the weapons would be used in these two sectors. “The FPF men would be armed in next 10-15 days so that they could effectively check timber smuggling and encroachment of forest land,” he said.
The Minister said that 14,539 hectares of forest land had been encroached upon in the state and necessary steps have been initiated to retrieve the same. He however, claimed that there has been no fresh encroachment and the encroachments in Shopian, Sidhra, Budgam and other places have been removed and the land demarcated.
Altaf however, admitted that that in absence of a forest policy and lack of coordination among various government departments and increasing population, forest land had been encroached upon.
“Our department has decided to update the records in tandem with the Revenue Department in a time bound manner to preserve our forests and check encroachments. We have also decided to demarcate “critical” areas near towns and cities in a phased manner,” he said, adding “We have already started the process in Bhatindi and Sunjwan areas in Jammu while a demarcation division has been shifted to Bhaderwah for the purpose.”
To a question about construction of roads and tunnels under Prime Minister Grameen Sadak Yojna in the forest belt, he said no further construction would be allowed.
Stating that the Forest department will give up liberal approach in providing forest land for construction and development purposes, he said any such case will henceforth be handed over to Environment Assessment Committee (EAC) for thorough study before disposal.
“The Forest department will give clearance only in such cases which are absolutely necessary and without alternative,” he said and added even for such cases clearance from EAC will be mandatory.
He also discussed broader contours of the policy and said that the policy has been framed after “extensive consultations” with the stakeholders from civil society, government departments, NGOs, local communities and commercial organisations.
He maintained that comprehensive strategies have been devised to make the policy vibrant and effective to cover major aspects related to various segments.
Altaf further said, “Although the government had been formulating guidelines and issuing instructions from time to time for regulating various aspects of forest management a need was felt to formulate a forest policy keeping in view the current needs and future challenges.”
Highlighting the functions and importance of forests in meeting the ecological and economic needs of the society, the state forest policy lays stress on conserving the forests for the environmental benefits they provide.
“The policy also underlines the need for optimizing the productivity of forests through restocking of open forest areas. Policy prescribes raising trees and plantations outside forest areas for meeting the timber, firewood and fodder needs of local people so that the burden on natural forests can be reduced,” the minister added.
Considering the potential of forests for climate change mitigation and adaptation, the policy lays emphasis on enhancement of forest carbon stocks and also provides for 100% incentives flow to the local community wherever such incentives accrue due to afforestation efforts by local communities.
Mian Altaf also said that the special focus has been provided in the policy for development of non-timber forest produce, including medicinal plants and conservation of biodiversity.
About the challenges ahead, Mian Altaf stated that investment in forestry sector would have to be increased for meeting the objectives enshrined in the policy.
“This will require considerable effort on the part of society in general and various departments of government in particular,” he said.
Lastupdate on : Mon, 31 Jan 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 31 Jan 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 1 Feb 2011 00:00:00 IST
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