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JAMMU: Several members took part in the Discussion on Demand for Grants of Forest, Environment, and Ecology Department in Legislative Assembly today. Initiating the discussion, Usman Abdul Majid   said JK is bestowed with rich forest wealth and there is need to conserve, preserve and protect this green gold. He said the forests have been contributing to the state’s development by providing various resources including timber, firewood, food, medicines etc besides giving revenue to the state by way of selling timber and other products.  

 

He urged the government to focus on increasing the forest cover in the state. He said afforestration and deforestration is a continuous process and the government needs to revive the forests where the forests are used for commercial purposes or for other developmental purposes. He, however, said the deforested areas are encroached and government is unable to retrieve the land. He asked the government to rope in the people living near forest land and provide them required awareness and livelihood so that they assist the government is preserving and protecting the forests.

He cautioned the government against environmental disaster in case immediate efforts were not taken to save Wullar Lake, the only freshwater lake in Asia, from further degradation. He stressed for having a plan to remove willow trees and prevent their re-growth in the periphery of the lake and said if we lose Wullar, it will lead to an ecological imbalance and stated that it was important to save the lake as water from across Kashmir flows into the lake through Jhelum river, before it pours out of the Valley.

 

Ravinder Rana hailed the Forest Minister and the Department employees for massive plantation drive along National Highway and other places. He also appreciated the Forest Department for developing various closures. He thanked the Minister for fixing targets including establishment of Pahalgam Zoo. He urged the government for retrieving the encroachments of forest land and appreciated the government for being able to retrieve various wetlands from encroachments in Jammu. He asked the government for releasing of allocation of funds under 14th Financial Commission. He also demanded conservation of forest cover and wildlife in the state to ensure a clean environment.

Mohammad Khalil Bandh said the forests ensure the overall development of the state as every sector in Kashmir is related to the Forests. He said tourism sector in J&K is just because of the presence of forests in the state while the agriculture, irrigation, forests and other major contributors of GDP are directly or indirectly dependent on forests. Mohammad Akbar Lone seconded the views presented by legislator Usman Majeed regarding conservation of Wullar Lake and appreciated the JK State Forest Corporation (JKSFC) for providing timber to the consumers well in time.

 

He called for making temporary Timber Sale Depots functional in his Constituency on permanent basis. He asked the government for early rehabilitation of fishermen affected due to developmental works taken by the Wullar Conservation and Management Authority (WUCMA) and stressed for retrieving encroachments on forest lands. The legislator pleaded for streamlining of Social Forestry works in his Constituency. He asked the government to give wages to the genuine casual labours and daily rated workers in time bound manner. He proposed for establishment of Range Officer at Sumbal in his Constituency.

 

Bashir Ahmad Dar  hailed the Forest Minister for his dedication in streamlining the working of the Forest department and its allied departments besides taking various steps in protecting and preserving forest wealth of the State. He asked the government to release early compensation to the man-animal conflict cases of his Constituency. The legislator asked the government for stopping felling of trees to ensure pollution free Jammu and Kashmir.

Pawan Kumar Gupta identified some of the short comings in the distribution of timber in his constituency and urged the government to streamline the sale mechanism of the timber. He said several Forest Clearance Cases are pending in the department with regard to the construction of roads in Udhampur constituency particularly the cases for which funds have already been released out of CDF and various other schemes so that work can be started at earliest.

 

He also said that work on the construction of City Forest Park at Gangera Hills despite its inauguration in 2016 and urged the government to start the work on project immediately so that the park can be dedicated to the nation at earliest. He also stressed the need to check the population of Monkeys in his constituency by way of sterilization and said that the attacks by Monkeys on local population have increased many folds in past few years.  

 

Jeevan Lal appreciated the government for various initiatives taken to make the functioning of the forest and its allied wings smooth and pro-people. He urged the government for early sanctioning of compensation of man-animal conflict cases.  He also hailed the Forest Minister for opening of timber Depots at various places which, he said, have helped in minimizing the timber smuggling. He urged the government to issue timber to the people living near to forest land on concessional rates as was given to them in past.

Abdul Majid Padder appreciated the government for various initiatives for bringing further improvement in the forest and its allied departments. He, however, underscored the need to work in tandem to save the green wealth. He asked the government for developing Environment Park in his Constituency and also urged for construction of Forest Hut at Aharbal. The legislator also pleaded for strengthening of Forest Protection Force.

Sheikh Ishfaq Jabbar called for massive plantation drive in his constituency and also asked the government for development and preservation of Shalbug Rakh. He demanded for issuance of Deodar timber for construction of boats to Fishermen of his Constituency. He also demanded for timely release of wages to all casual labours working in forest and its allied wings. The legislator asked the government for focusing on Wildlife Protection Department and suggested for separate Divisional Forest Officer, Sonamarg.

Gulzar Ahmad Wani also took part in the discussion and asked the government to prepare comprehensive policy for the people living nearer to the forest areas of the State. He welcomed the Forest Minister’s decision for giving responsibility to the Jammu and Kashmir State Forest Corporation (JKSFC) for distribution of timber to the consumers. He demanded enhancing in compensation being given to man-animal conflict cases.

Shah Mohammad Tantray appreciated the efforts of the Forest Minister for streamlining the functioning of the department besides working to increase the forest cover in the state. He expressed concern over the degradation of forests in past few decades and urged the government to take extra interest in preserving and conserving the forests besides taking steps to bring more land under forest cover. He suggested having provision in statutes for CDF wherein the legislator may use a certain amount of CDF in conservation of Forests.

 

Altaf Ahmad Wani hailed the Forest Minister for streamlining the functioning of Forest and its allied Departments. He demanded for opening of new sale depots in Pahalgam Constituency. He asked the government for ensuring of Fire fighting equipments in the Department. He also urged the government to provide fire wood to Masjids in Kashmir Valley during winters and also raised issue of issuance of NOC for setting up of a Saw Mill in residential area at Sheer Hamadan.

He also urged the government to preserve the water bodies and urged the government to take steps to minimize the Man-Animal Conflict besides providing compensation to the victims of Man-Animal Conflict. He also urged the department to retrieve the forest land from illegal occupation of influential people.

Syed Farooq Andrabi appreciated the working of the Forest Department especially taking a massive aforestation drive and recruiting professional staff under ‘Rehber-e-Janglat’. He also urged the department to start a special plantation drive along the newly constructed Four-Lane Highway from Qazigund to Baramulla. He urged the government to focus on the welfare of Gujjar community as they are the best defenders of forests and the government should take care of this community

He also urged the government to ensure transparency in various allied departments including State Pollution Control Board besides ensuring strict ban on the use of polythene in the state. G M Saroori hailed the Minister for handing over of timber distribution work to JKSFC but he demanded for opening of more timber depots in Inderwal Constituency. He asked the government to upgrade the damaged infrastructure of forest and its allied Department’s assets under CAMPA in his Constituency.

 

He also pleaded for enhancing of compensation being given to man-animal conflict cases. He appreciated the government’s decision for engagement of Rehber-e-Janglat policy. He pointed out that the Forest Department has not issued No Objection Certificates (NOCs) for clearance of eight sanctioned PMGSY roads in his Constituency and urged the government for early issuance of the same so that the construction works on these prestigious road projects to be taken up at an earliest.

Shakti Raj Parihar urged the government to put an end to unabated deforestation while appreciating the massive plantation drive launched by the department. He, however, appealed the government to start the plantation drive in Poonch district also so that the forest cover can be increased and degradation can be compensated. He also urged government to expedite the process of issuing Forest Clearance NOCs for various developmental projects including construction of roads so that projects can be started at earliest.

 

Abdul Majid Larmi appreciated the minister for reviving the State Forest Corporation in the stateand urged him to take care of the Forest department also. He urged the government to provide sufficient stock of timber especially Gail (Kairo) in his constituency and also urged the government to establish Timber Sale Depots at Wanpoh, LArm Bazar, Uranhall, Batingoo, Redwana, Kujer and other feasible areas of Homshalibugh constituency. He also urged the government to provide 100 feet timber each to the flood victims of 2014 as per the cabinet approval and government commitment.