Forest fires in Bhaderwah Division engulf hundreds of green trees

Forest fires in Bhaderwah Division engulf hundreds of green trees

6 October 2009

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India —

How unfortunate is it, when J and K Minister for Forest and Environment Mian Altaf Ahmed during a function at Srinagar appealed to the people  to make the J&K State green and safe heaven for the rich biodiversity, shortly after the appeal about 500 young green deodar and Pine trees were reportedly engulfed by fire in between Comportment No- 3 and 4 of Chiralla Forest Range in Forest Division Bhaderwah at a place known as Rankhi Faat.

Reports said that reacting to the GREEN GOLD IN DANGER news series by this reporter, forest officials have started putting restrictions on cutting of green forest wealth which is not digestible to the forest mafia operating in the state for decades thus they instead of cutting the trees have adopted another modus operands to extract the wood from forests. As per the new strategy of extracting the wood from the green jungle, the land mafia put the green trees on fire due to which green trees fell down without cutting. Once the trees fell down, the remains are used as wood while the area which is turned into desert is encroached upon by the forest land encroachment mafia and is used for agricultural activities illegally. The process continues and more and more trees are set ablaze year after year.

Reports received today late evening said that about 500 young green trees were engulfed by massive fire at Rankhi Faat which was put on by forest mafia. Reports added that the fire was spotted at at-least seven spots in between Comportment No-3 and 4 and that was spreading very fast.

Relevant to mention here that in lat 20 days, this is the third fire incident in the Chiralla Forest Range while the cutting of trees continues. However; the forest officials deputed in the area have started responding but unfortunately not to protect the green trees but to fill their pockets with some money from the anti forest elements which adds more fuel to the forest fire.

The Bhaderwah Forest Division, particularly Chiralla Forest Range lacks Forest Protection Force (FPF) posts and in the absence of these posts the forest mafia is going non-stop.

It has been established that forest officials at the lower level are hand-in-gloves with the forest mafia which is adding deforestation in the Bhaderwah Forest Division and forest land encroachments are on increase.

Government had setup some Village Forest Committees (VFC) but regrettably the members of VFC instead of protecting the green tree from felling are helping in cutting of the same and even some are selling the timber scants and earning at the cost mankind whose survival is dependent on forests.

The Jammu and Kashmir state has been a tragedy, if one goes by the role of successive state governments in protecting green forests since the partition of India.  The slogans are raised every time. Assurances are given almost every day. Seminars, debates and competitions are organized almost every weak but the results are contrary on ground but on papers (newspapers as well as official), the results/outcome/impact etc are shown maximum as the Forest Department has done wonders.

The seminars/debates/competitions are organized mostly in cities at schools/colleges/university where intellectuals/academicians/ and scholars are taught to protect the forests. They are appealed not to cut the green trees but has anyone ever realized where the problem lies? Where the focus of Government in creating awareness about the importance of green forests is restricted to cities only; the people in higher reaches of the state are not aware about the importance of green forests. They even don’t know about the loss of cutting a green tree. The Government has to change its strategy if it really wants to protect the green forest of Jammu and Kashmir state. Instead of cities, the people living in unconnected villages need to be educated about the importance of forests and environment.
If one goes by the man-animal conflict reports, people living in villages and higher reaches have been targeted by the wild animals because they have threatened and disturbed their habitations but instead of educating these people about the cause of man-animal conflict, the Department of Wildlife Protection is celebrating Wildlife Week and the functions are being organized in cities like in Srinagar at SKICC.

Instead of involving the villagers who are more responsible for man-animal conflict, university, school and college students, local people of the city, NGOs, representatives of print and electronic media, officers of the concerned department conservationists, experts, naturalists and representative of police are invited. Will such practices help in overcoming the real problems?

Though the Minister for Forest Mian Altaf Ahmad who was speaking at a function held today at SKICC said that at present thrust is being laid on preservation of environment throughout the world adding that it would prove fruitful when all of us would play a pivotal role to preserve and conserve forests, water bodies and environment, but will anybody act as per the appeal of minister? The government which seems in a deep slumber has to wake-up and start from the beginning. So the desired results are achieved before it slips out of our hands!

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