When we discuss soil and water conservation or integrated watershed management programmes in Jammu & Kashmir, we must know that this concept was introduced by a veteran forester Ghulam Hassan Kangoo. Mr Kangoo served as Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) in J&K and retired from active service in 1993.
As I have been following him on social media for last several years, I always wanted to interact with such a legendary man who is considered to be the doyen of modern forestry in Jammu & Kashmir; he introducing soil and water conservation concepts in the forest department and set up numerous integrated watershed management projects in J&K with the help of World Bank.
Apart from stabilisation of degraded and denuded sites, G H Kangoo has played a pivotal role in mitigating the challenges of conserving soil and water in the stressful areas of various Kandi areas of Kashmir valley and several places in Jammu region as well.
The department of soil conservation which was created under his guidance in 1978 achieved remarkable success. Kangoo sahib was appointed as the first Director of Soil & Water Conservation Department in 1978. He is the only officer who served in this department for 8 years ( 1978 to 1986).
After a year he was again posted as Director in the same department between July 1987 to January 1990. Incidentally when Mr Kangoo was appointed as Director Soil Conservation (HoD) he was of the rank of Divisional Forest Officer (DFO).
Through a Govt order No: 136 of 1983 Dated : 11.10.1983 Mr Kangoo was promoted as Conservator of Forests against a vacant post of Conservator Working Plan, but he was asked to continue as Director Soil & Water Conservation. Pertinently the post of Director was made equivalent to Conservator’s post (IFS cadre) through the same order.
This clearly shows that Govt could not afford to transfer this learned forester from the Soil & Water Conservation Department.
Early Life & education
Ghulam Hassan Kangoo was born in 1935 at Sopore. His father Abdul Gani Kangoo died when he was only 11. Kangoo lived in a joint family and his uncle Wali Mohammad Kangoo took care of his education along with his two other siblings (elder brother and younger sister).
He passed his matriculation examination with good marks in 1950 and then shifted to Srinagar where he lived in a rented room at Batamaloo for some time and then put up in SP College hostel. For two years, post matriculation, Mr Kangoo studied at SP College Srinagar & completed his FSC.
In 1952 he was selected for the BSc Agriculture course at Govt Agriculture College Ludhiana in Punjab. The College was established in Ludhiana soon after India-Pakistan partition and was housed in a small building. The main campus of the college namely Punjab Agriculture College was established in 1906 at Lyallpur Punjab now called Faisalabad in Pakistan.
After 1947, Govt set up a makeshift campus in Ludhiana which is now a full fledged Agriculture University. In 1956 G H Kangoo completed his degree in Agriculture and came back to Kashmir. For some months he worked in the Agriculture Department and was posted at agriculture seed farm Sopore.
During the same time Mr Kangoo appeared for the Superior Forest Service exam conducted by J&K Govt and qualified the same. He was sent to Forest Research Institute & College Dehradun by J&K Govt for further training. During those days Indian Forest Service (IFS) was yet to be started in India.
For the information of readers, the IFS is one of the three All India Services, which was constituted in 1966 under the All-India Services Act 1951 by the Government of India. The main mandate of the Indian Forest Service (IFS) was to implement the National Forest Policy on scientific lines.
Interestingly the J&K Agriculture department didn’t allow Mr Kangoo to leave the department as they claimed to have spent Rs 5000 on his education at Ludhiana for 4 years. Finally, after intervention at a higher level he was allowed to proceed to Dehradun, where he studied forestry for 3 years.
Noted foresters A R Wani and P N Pandita, both from Kashmir, were his classmates in Dehradun. Mr Wani also hailed from Sopore and was Kangoo sahib’s classmate at SP College as well.
Mr Wani completed his BSc from SP College while as Kangoo sahib went for BSc Agriculture to Ludhiana. Later, both got admission in FRI Dehradun. A R Wani also retired as Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) in 1994. Kangoo sahib’s another classmate at Dehradun was Mr P N Pandita who originally hailed from Nuner Ganderbal.
P N Pandita retired as Chief Conservator of Forests in 1991 and his last posting was Director State Forest Research Institute. Prior to that he was posted as MD State Forest Corporation (SFC) for several years during 1980’s. Presently Mr Pandita lives in Mumbai with his son and A R Wani lives in Srinagar.
ACF Pir Panjal Forest Division
After coming back in 1959, G H Kangoo was appointed Assistant Conservator of Forests (ACF) Pir Panjaal Forest Division (PP Division) which consisted of Gulmarg, Tangmarg, Budgam and Shopian areas. The division those days was headquartered in Srinagar.
Some years back a Special Forest division was carved out of PP division which is based in Tangmarg. For the last many years the PP division has been based in Budgam.
Mr Kangoo has extensively travelled in the entire upper reaches of Budgam, Shopian and Tangmarg areas on foot as there were no jeeps allotted to forest officers those days.
Mr Kangoo told me that he was passionate about forests and that was the reason he chose to join this department.
“Sometimes I would tell my colleagues that the Govt is paying us salaries to enjoy nature and travel in forests. It was more like a passion than a job for me as I travelled from Gogaldara to Drang Khan, Sethharan and from Sethharan to Raithan and Branwar Yusmarg areas plus upper areas of Shopian like Dubjan and Pir ki Gali “ said Mr Kangoo
For some months Kangoo sahib was posted as Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Langate as the incumbent DFO had gone for some training course. He was posted back as ACF, PP division and then sent on a training course for 9 months on soil conservation outside J&K.
In late 1960’s G H Kangoo was offered to be posted as DFO Project Planning division as he was fond of writing proposals. He accepted the offer from the then Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) Mr Laxman.
Colombo Plan Scholarship
In 1969 G H Kangoo was selected for a scholarship programme in the UK under Colombo Plan. The Colombo Plan is a regional intergovernmental organisation that has been working since 1951.
The organisation was conceived at the Commonwealth Conference on Foreign Affairs held in Colombo in January 1950 which was attended by Finance Ministers of UK , Australia, Canada, Srilanka (then Ceylon), Pakistan and New Zealand.
The PMs of India and Ceylon were also present during that programme. Membership has expanded significantly over the years to the current 28 governments. The primary focus of its work is on the development of human resources in the south and southeast regions of Asia.
Between 1950s and late 1980s, countries such as UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand offered the Colombo Plan scholarships to students, Govt officials as a form of aid to ensure a supply of qualified manpower. For one year Mr Kangoo remained in the UK and came back in 1970.
Soil Conservation Department created
The then Chief Conservator of Forests Ghulam Naqashband, a veteran foresters of J&K, having revolutionised the department asked Mr Kangoo to start working on project planning in a big way.
Having studied project planning, watershed management, and soil conservation in England under the guidance of veteran people for a year, Mr Kangoo had gained a lot of knowledge and expertise in these fields.
For 6 years he was posted as DFO Kashmir Forest Division Anantnag (1972-1978). During the same time (1976-77) Soil Conservation Board was set up in J&K to look into anti soil erosion techniques, conservation of flood catchment areas etc.
The idea had come from Bakra Nangal dam project in Punjab where such conservation programmes had already been initiated by Govt. In 1976 Mr Kangoo was appointed as member secretary of Soil Conservation Board which was an honour for him as the board was headed by Deputy CM Mirza Afzal Beigh and Chief Secretary and some administrative Secretaries were its members.
Within 3 to 4 meetings Govt accepted the suggestions of G H Kangoo for creating a separate Soil Conservation Department. This became a reality in 1978 and Mr Kangoo headed the Soil and Water Conservation department for 11 long years.
G H Kangoo has done a lot of work on Nomadic Studies and has authored several articles on the subject which have been carried in several national and international publications. He is well versed with the nomadic routes of Bakerwals from Rajouri to Gurez, Drass, Kargil and other areas.
He has written a lot on pasture development in North West Himalayas and attended several national and international conferences on the subject. During his tenure as Director Soil Conservation Mr Kangoo developed successful watershed projects at Rangil, Zewan, Watnar Kokernag.
He created more than 50 micro watersheds in J&K. A Sisal farm was developed by G H Kangoo in Birpur Jammu and he played a great role in streamlining the Resin tapping from Cheer trees of Jammu. These trees were being damaged a lot by private players by extracting 33000 tones of resin every year and with the intervention of Mr Kangoo the same was brought down to 13000 tones.
This prevented thousands of Cheer trees from getting damaged due to excessive resin tapping. He created Range Management, chAgrostology and Remote Sensing units in the soil conservation department. Later-on the Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing, came into existence in 1987 that functioned under the Department of Science & Technology with the creation of one post of Director and transfer of Remote sensing centre from the Department of Soil Conservation to the Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing.
The Agrostology wing is almost a separate department headed by a CCF level officer with several DFOs and Ranges Officers attached to it now.
Post Retirement life
In spite being such an experienced forester and conservationist, the successive Governments in Jammu & Kashmir could have utilised service of Mr Kangoo after his retirement in 1993, but that didn’t happen unfortunately.
Instead, the international organisations like World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) came forward to seek his professional guidance for several projects. He was appointed as an evaluator for Desert Development Scheme Ladakh and a Watershed project in Indonesia by ADB. He was also part of the soil conservation project appraisal team in China.
He also worked as an Independent Consultant for the World Bank IWDP project. He is the founder Trustee of Peoples Environmental Council (PEC). He is also the member Green Citizens Council, Group of Concerned Citizens and Central Government Pensioners Association Kashmir. Mr Kangoo lives with his wife and two sons in Srinagar.
His son is a doctor and another one is into IT business. He has two daughters both of whom are doctors, and are married.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.