Srinagar, Jan 12: Unmanaged overgrazing is posing a major challenge to the forest eco-system in Jammu and Kashmir.
Forests are integral to the sustainability of primary sectors of agriculture, horticulture, sheep and animal husbandry, particularly in the hilly areas of Jammu and Kashmir. People in these areas rely heavily on the forests for wood, fodder, food and small timber requirements.
However, heavy grazing pressure on the forest areas has resulted in growth of unpalatable grasses, increased soil erosion and low productivity.
“The annual fodder requirement of J&K is huge. Whereas availability from different sources viz alpine pastures, forest grazing lands, fallow agricultural lands, private lands etc is inadequate thereby leaving a steep gap between supply and demand. Consequently, it produces adverse effects in the form of soil erosion, weed infestation, and ultimately further degradation of forest eco-system,” reads an official document of the Forest Department.
Jammu and Kashmir has its forest cover stretching over 23,241 square kilometers, which is 10.46 per cent of its total geographical area of 1,01,387 square kilometers. Official figures reveal that 103705 kanals of forest area is under encroachments in Kashmir.
“To make the matters worse, the animal species who would earlier graze in the low lying areas are shifting to high altitudes. Further, there is no concrete government policy to deal with the excessive grazing,” said an official of the Forest Department.
Waking up the new threat, Forest Department is planning to conduct series of activities to promote rotational grazing.
“Under rotational grazing, the pastures and grazing areas shall be closed temporarily on rotation basis. The closed areas shall be treated for weed eradication, soil erosion related problems, soil fertility and for enrichment through planting of fodder species,” he said.
Similarly, the other activities, as per the official, include development of pastures and highland pastures, maintenance of old fodder units, and research and development activities.
“Improvement of highland pastures and grazing lands is essential for enhanced fodder production which ultimately will protect our forest areas against further degradation,” he added.
Chief Conservator of Forests Kashmir Farooq Gillani was not available for comments.