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Axe never causesForest anydamage alone

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By Bhushan Parimoo

Frenetic calls have been pouring in even at odd hours these days. Imploring upon the Environment Awareness Forum, an NGO working for the cause of the Environment since last 40 years, to restrain J&K State Forest Corporation for anti Forest approach.. Has pressed Mechanised cutters in service to extract timber    from the allotted Forest Compartments. These mechanized cutters do not fall in Hand Saw category but, instead, qualify as Band Saw, though smaller in size. Asked callers to rise to the occasion and protects and resists. Confided that musclemen on behalf of the sub contactors threaten to get them arrested branding them above ground workers. Hence pleading    to bring it to the notice of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. Under section 29(i) of the J&K Forest Act, 1987, “saw mill” has been defined as ‘any device and machinery with which and the premises (including the precincts thereof) in which or in any part of which sawing is carried on with the aid of electrical and mechanical power.  The Supreme Court of India has banned the operation of saw mills within a distance of less than 8 km from the boundary of any demarcated forest in the State of Jammu and Kashmir where as in other states it is 10 kms limit. Therefore, the mechanised cutters or saws, which have been allowed by the State Forest Corporation for timber extraction, are not only being operated in the blatant violation of the Section 6(j) and Rule 2(n) of the SRO 103 dt. 26.03.2012, mandate seeking of licence from the prescribed licensing authority viz, the territorial Conservator of Forests as defined under rule 2(h) of the said SRO.

 

Environmentalists at local level are of the opinion when the Government introduced Mechanised Sawing Machines, how locals shall be refrained from using it, which will encourage the carrying out of clandestine timber trade.  Already under the very nose of the concerned authorities, Big Saw mills have been operating illegally. These are not a needle hidden in a stack of hay. Forests belong exclusively to the State Subjects. Those who are brought in to save, have nothing at stake; hence no sentimental attachment barring the locals. Forests belongs to the State Subjects exclusively. Those who are brought in to save have nothing at stake hence no sentimental attachment barring the locals. EAF did approach on cell to the Suresh Chugh, Managing Director of the State Forest Corporation. He had his view that it does not fall under Band Saw, which is utterly not correct. Second he was of the opinion that it is beneficial on two accounts one work is carried fast second non availability of local labour is one of the main reason to press this mechanised Saw machine, besides Labour has to be imported. That means envisaged Man days generated for local youth is defeated. There is no hurry to put in practice which is not legally allowed, because tree won’t run and cross the LOC. This is like CEC drew the notice of the Apex Court  that it  had been unable to agree with the  contention of the State of Jammu and Kashmir that regulated felling of trees from the forest is absolutely necessary to maintain  and improve upon the quality and quantity of the forests cover. In the eco-sensitive hilly areas of Himalaya, it may be desirable that a conservative approach is followed. Awareness dawned among the state Subjects that the world famous rarest of rare Green Gold has been almost wiped out causing direct severe impact of the biodiversity here.

To save Forests from further vandalism J&K State Forest Corporation was established in 1978 to carry timber extraction on scientific lines. History of J&KSF Corporation   has been a sordid affairs, since it was established. Earlier Forest lessees had a strong a clout and it were they who would decide which Compartment should be releases for timber extraction. Copies of working plan used to be in their possession and services of retired Forest officers were engaged to suggest after scrutinise the Working Plan. After the establishment of the J&K SF Corporation, most of these became sub-contractors. Nothing changed except nomenclature. It was P.C.Kapoor subjected to correction who retired as Pr Chief Conservator Forest, while as Conservator Forest noticed that the J&K State Forest Corporation is not remitting Royalty for the timber extracted from the Forests. Lack of records to reconciling, besides sister concern, worked out a plan let bygone be bygone for onwards things be carried as per rules. It was the Environment Awareness Forum who through a Writ Petition before the Supreme Court of India State of J&K 7 ors No 171/96   has revealed that the Corporation has been extracting timer to the tune of 1.25 corers of CFT annually. Despite of the fact during a Periodical Review Meeting of Forest Department taken by the Planning Department in 1987. A survey report was presented in the meeting from 1966 to 1987 where a pronounced decline of the regeneration of these species. Survey conducted in 1966 took for test check a commercial area of 404053 Ha. First time sigh of ill health of these Forests was recorded. Another examination conducted area covered was 588467 Ha in 1982. Things showed no sign of improvement. There after it was 1987 area considered was 592401 Ha. Same story to convey nothing to write home about. Quite clear that instead of Forest growing in stock as per its normal behaviour showed consistent decline. Indicated that the Forests have been in distress needs immediate attention. While regeneration showed perturbed trend still department carried increase in areas for commercial exploitation. Only looters not protectors can do it. Commissioner Planning and Development out rightly called for the cause for this decline. Queried further that on one hand Forest Department claim that Forests management and regulated in a manner. Where the natural regeneration commensurate with the rate of removals. Then where from this abnormal behavior cropped up. Coniferous Forest of North Kashmir called Kamraj area was subjected to reckless clearing first, followed by Chenab Valley. Once the valley exported these species outside the state. And it was the Kamraj Circle timber transportation two log booms were established. One atDoabgah, another the main on river Jhelum, at Jhelum city borderingState with then Punjab, now part of Pakistan, even accommodated the needs of Jammu Division as well. Readers may like that till the Supreme Court of India intervenedthrough its 12-12-96 judgment in the Writ Petition (Civil) Environment Awareness Forum v/s State of J&K and Ors, State Forest Corporation had been extracting Timber up to 1.25 crores CFT. Which adherence to the direction of the Apex Court has scaled down as per norms just less than 25 lakhs CF. To meet local demand import has reached to about 50 lakh CFT of timber. At present State has no stock of Deodar or Kail to extract. Only Budloo is being extracted. It calls for us to ponder about the status of our forests. Budloo has few takers in preferenceto unspecified imported Timber.it was In an affidavit on Behalf of Ministry of Environment and Forests Before The Supreme Court of India Civil Original Jurisdiction I.A No 19 of 2000 in WRIT PETITION  ( C) In the matter of Environment Awareness Forum, Petitioner (S) Versus State of J&K 7 ors, Respondent (S) “Supreme Court of India in this very case stressed that involves active participation of the village youth in plantation and forest regeneration Besides Village Forest Committees for the affairs of the Forest, which earlier used to be called Joint Forest Management Committees which never took place. Department bring in outsiders to carry the job disregarding the orders of the Apex Court. Kashmir valley cleared of its mature coniferous forests. Deforestation shifted to Chenab valley, where from needs of the Kashmir valley has been met. Last 60 years almost all the mature trees in a scheme ofthings were felled. Tree canopy gone, cleared areas allowed toencroachments. Corporation, as already said is a sister concern of the Department of Forest Environment and Ecology, HOD interchangeable as comrades in Arms, make it a point to overlook shortcomings and shield as one. Readers may like that once wood from   log boom at Kanthan, Reasi used to be carried under Form no 25 to Jammu, by the political backed Contactors and on one form at least three trips inconnivance and later to cover up the fraud loog boom was made to collapse.EAF raised crusade, but vigilance department was oiled even meteorology Department gave a report that that days it rained heavily though before and after collapsed of the Boom days were sunny.

Lt Gen S.S.Salaklani, when he was Advisor to the Governor in charge Department of Forest Environment and Ecology, directed to make it State Forest Development Cooperation on the Kerala Forest Development Corporation, thought it has been carried but while write this piece found it is still Tree Felling Cooperation. During that period Advisor was approach by the EAF to establish in each blocks of the state demonstration cum traing Fodder Nurseries, he appreciated the idea and pass on the job to Corporation, which it not carry. Just a few years back under Bamboo Mission it was asked to restart Value added Bamboo products from Crafts centre Gagwal with a seed money of rupees 40 lakhs but it did not took the challenge. Similarly about 40 lakhs Corporation paid in advance a sum of Rs 40 laks to the forest Department for the rights to extract minor Forest Produce, but not a single extraction is in the record. Agreement with a private concern as alleged had strange terms, first it was to be jointly rum in Forest area. Dumping of Timber at Leh against no demand has been another dirty job but no one taken to task. What makes this writer to surprises when timber extraction has come down from 1.25 crores to mere 22 lakh Cft of timber annually, how staff on borne of the Corporation is almost same besides how number of vehicles to the staff has increased. It requires mention that the  field staff carry  are working against very heavy odds under charged circumstances  for month no salary  on retirement no dues for years. But forests are to be protected. Advisor has to its credit one Veerapan, here he has to face in every corner of the forest set up in Forest Uniform. Save Forest or Leave Forests choice lies with him.

(The writer is a Jammu based environmentalist)