SRINAGAR: Encroachment of over one lakh kanals of forests has failed to move the Jammu and Kashmir government to demarcate woodland in the valley.
Official figures of Forest Department accessed by The Kashmir Monitor reveal that 103705 kanals of forest area is under encroachments in the valley.
An official of Forest Department said half of forests in Kashmir are without demarcation.
“Eight-year-ago, government had decided to demarcate forest land in Kashmir. It was also decided existing boundary pillars will be strengthened but nothing has been done so far,” he said.
However, artificial demarcation of boundaries was done at few places. “Civilian population is also residing in forest areas including Dachigam National Park, posing a serious threat to its species,” the official said.
Nonexistent boundaries and lack of proper fencing has led to the habitat degradation as cattle go on a grazing spree in the upper reaches of Dachigam.
Officials blame non-demarcation of forests for the increase in wildfires. “Had the forests been demarcated, less fire incidents would have happened,” the official said.
Official data reveals that more than 55, 000 kanals of forest area have been destroyed in 859 wildfire incidents in Kashmir for the last five years.
Figures reveal that highest number of incidents were reported during 2016- 2017, when 371 fire-incidents damaged 30202 kanals of forest land. This was followed by 192 wildfires engulfing 13,699 kanals of land during 2017-2018. 121 forest fires wreaked havoc on 4171 kanals of land during 2015- 2016.
Around 111 wildfires occurred in 2014-2015 which destroyed 3984 kanals of land. The most affected areas include Lidder and Kamraj where 227 and 121 forest fires occurred respectively.
An environment panel headed by former legislator MY Tarigami had asked Jammu and Kashmir government to demarcate forest lands to stop encroachments and adopt appropriate mechanisms to check the pollution from brick kilns.
The committee had suggested that the Forest Department must take all necessary steps to demarcate the entire forest land to avoid day-to-day encroachment efforts by unscrupulous elements for their ulterior motives.
Secretary Forests and Environment Manoj Kumar Dwivedi said government has taken up several measures to conserve forest wealth. “Vulnerable areas in forests are being demarcated on priority basis. It requires a large funding for demarcation of entire forest land,” he said.