Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Wednesday asked the forest department to focus on increasing the ‘hangul’ (Kashmiri stag) population at the Dachigam National Park and opening the destination to a limited number of tourists.
Sinha was addressing the passing-out ceremony of 98 forest guards here.
The 32nd batch of the Soil Conservation Training School Jammu, the 56th batch of the Forest Guard Training School Jammu and the 66th batch of the Kashmir Forest Training School Bandipora have successfully completed their course despite the disruption caused by the pandemic.
He asked the forest department to explore the possibility of developing Dachigam as a tourist destination, safeguard Mansar and Surinsar lakes near Jammu and work on a plan to protect wetlands and waste lands visited by lakhs of migratory birds every year.
“Four-five days back I visited Dachigam National Park in Srinagar. What is the hangul population there, and how many more can be added? We have to think over it,” Sinha said.
The antlered deer, known as the hangul, were once a major attraction in the mountain-ringed forests of Dachigam, but the population of the endangered species has drastically come down over the years.
“Can we bring a system where locals and tourists from across the country can go there (to Dachigam to see the hangul) even as we have to keep the numbers limited,” Sinha asked.
Asking the department to adopt a humane approach towards forest dwellers, he said, “We are implementing the Forest Rights Act, which came into force across the country in 2006 but was not extended to Jammu and Kashmir.”
“Forest dwellers in J&K have so far been deprived of their rights over the forest in accordance with the Act,” the Lt governor said.
“Jammu and Kashmir is moving on the path of development and it is the responsibility of the Forest department to strike a balance and ensure that the fragile environment of the place, known as paradise on earth, does not suffer any harm,” Sinha said.
Terming forest employees “heroes”, the Lt governor said, “They are risking their lives to keep poachers, encroachers and land mafia at bay. They play an important role in the growing man-animal conflict and are also keeping forest fires in check.”
“Your job is no less than of a soldier guarding the border or a policeman maintaining law and order. I salute your bravery and pay my tributes to those who have laid down their lives while discharging their duties,” he said, and asked the Forest department to observe September 11 every year as a day to pay tributes to their martyrs.
Earlier, officials said around 100 forest employees have laid down their lives in the line of duty over the past three decades.