More than 200 proposed developmental works in Jammu and Kashmir, mostly road projects, are awaiting clearance by the Forest department, an official document has revealed.
The document accessed by Greater Kashmir reveals that 215 projects to be taken up by the Roads & Buildings department, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana's implementing agency and Irrigation and Flood Control Department are awaiting the necessary forest clearance or have got stuck up due to allied issues.
In a communiqué, Nodal Officer for Forest Conservation Act in the office of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) has communicated to the higher-ups the status of 215 pending cases of forest clearances.
Of these, 120 cases were submitted by R&B department for diversion of forest land, 68 by PMGSY and 27 by the I&FC department.
The Forest department has pointed that 98 cases were pending due non-submission of documents/information or "non-response" of the user agencies.
It has stated that 59 forest clearance cases were under process whereas 12 were approved by the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) but their payment is pending.
According to the letter, 14 cases were either deferred or rejected by the FAC and 16 were pending due to previous liabilities, wildlife clearances and other issues.
It has also revealed that in 16 cases where the departments had sought clearance from the department, no forestland is involved.
Under the JK Forest (Conservation) Act, 1997, an advisory committee is constituted to take a call on diversion of forestland for the public utilities.
At present, the Forest Advisory Committee is headed by Chief Secretary and comprises of top bureaucrats and officials of the Forest department.
Recently, a panel of Legislative Assembly headed by MLA Khansahab Hakim Muhammad Yasin came down heavily on the government for holding up forest clearance of the developmental projects.
"The Assurance Committee took a strong note of delay in diverting forestland for the infrastructure building like roads. I have directed them to speed up the process," Hakim said.
When contacted, Principal Secretary Forest Rakesh Kumar Gupta said they have fast-tracked the process of clearing the cases.
"We have cleared a huge number of cases. But sometimes, the departments don't submit the requisite information and that is why there are pending cases," he said.