Absence of Forest Policy

The daily Kashmir Images writes that once 80% J&K state’s territory was under forest cover, but today it is less than 50%, that shows the extent of damage done to forests. The loot of the forest is going on, with smugglers  active and department conniving with them, because of corruption. The management of forest wealth is so poor that even though forest department  stores have enough timber, that is rotting, but it is not being given to people  who need it. The other worrisome factor is that management of ‘minor forest products’ – MFP, that include herbs and medicinal plants – is now non-existent.

Excerpts:

 

The Plunder:

The wanton loot and plunder of the state’s forest wealth is common place knowledge and one could say without any fear of contradiction that every inhabitant of this God-forsaken land is aware of it. It would be only wondrous to believe that those heading the Forest department would be unaware. Indeed they are the ones who know it better than anybody else, but given their own complicity in the murky business, they prefer talking only in terms of whooping figures that are actually earmarked and spent on what is officially called “safeguarding” the forest wealth. At one point in time more than 80 percent of the state’s entire territory was under the forest cover and lumbering was one of the major economic activities. Indeed this was the time when forest products contributed a whole lot to the state’s economy. But owing to both governmental neglect as well as official incompetence which couldn’t regulate and manage forestry on scientific lines, the entire activity of lumbering was closed down for good. Now as population continued to grow and so did the demand for more houses and hence more timber, the Forest department and its subsidiaries failed to live up to this demand, which automatically gave rise to a culture of loot in the form of timber smuggling which continues without any respite. While the rampage of petty smugglers continues without any fear of punitive reprisals, the connivance and patronage of Forest department employees including its officials steadily gave birth to a very powerful timber mafia.

 

The Nexus:

Today less than 50 percent of the territory is under the forests and almost entire 100 percent of this forest area is under the smugglers’ axe.  And the elaborate Forest department and its minor stooges are mute spectators at best and active collaborators at its worst. But nobody talks about this criminal nexus. Indeed what could be more sad a commentary on the poor state of affairs in this regard than the fact that Jammu and Kashmir does not have any Forest Policy worth its name. Had there been one, then somebody would have bothered to question why has the Forest department itself grown into a sort of white elephant, which instead of contributing to the state’s economy is only draining it like a parasite. As of now hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of construction-grade (A-grade) timber is rotting in various official depots and several times more is rotting inside the forests, but is there anybody who is bothered about it. While the common people are thirsting for timber, the inertia-ridden and corruption-infested Forest department is doing nothing to supply it to them…..

 

Neglecting Rich Resources:

Another worrisome factor our forests and particularly their management is tapping the vast potential of what is in official jargon called “minor forest products” or MFP. This MFP which includes hundreds of herbs and medicinal plants are a huge resource just waiting it proper exploitation. This is not to say that it are not exploited – certainly it is, but in the most disorganized and shady way. Here again this huge resource worth millions has been left to either rot in the forests or has been given for virtual peanuts to a few people who are in this trade. So far nothing worthwhile has been done to tap this huge wealth, and one is hard at understanding why has there been a deliberate neglect of this important resource. At a time when economics seems to have become a political buzzword for the government, one is really hard at understanding why is forest wealth — which if managed properly has a huge potential to draw this state from many of its perennial economic ills – not been accorded the kind of importance it merits. May be the big IFS (Indian Forest Service) ‘babus’ who are growing fat by the day in Kashmir, courtesy the ill-gotten money they earn as here as their ‘cut’  or ‘commissions’, have answers to some of these important questions!”

 

[Courtesy: daily Kashmir Images, Srinagar, Kashmir, June 11, 2018].

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