By Bhushan Parimoo
It appears that the thaw has just set in within the deliverance apparatus of the Social Forestry. Very minute and feeble softening yet gives sign of hope. A matter to rejoice among the Nature Watchers and those who exclusively dependant on it one way or the other on it. Social Forestry Department has been subject to a Series of multiple frozen layers of negligent accumulated over years. To take it from the morasses of insensitive administrative mill. Required efforts of the hurricane nature to put it once again on rails to move forward. Indeed a Commendable patient endeavour seen after a long time.
Despite its mission has a long way to go to achieve the envisaged goal. It has been the perhaps only Afforestation Programme in the state. Which in its short span of activities has unmatched roll of success stories to write home about. Claims to have planted 13.00 Crores of plants covering an area of about 1.69 Lac hectares so far. Besides it 16 .00 Crores of plants has been distributed to the farmers for planting in their own propriety lands free of costs. This resulted to take off ever growing unavoidable pressure from forests to meet the demand for Fruit boxes. Social Forestry activities brought in through the Farm Forestry delivered unbelievable role in meeting the demand for 7.00Lacs Fruit boxes annually since 1982.
Sustained the Bat manufacturing industry in the valley ensuring the required supply for the manufacturing of Cricket Bats. Jammu region could get entire requirement for plywood industry from Eucalyptus Farm Forestry.
At the National Level Social Forestry Activities got “INDIRA PRIYADARSHANI VRIKSHA MITRA AWARD “Awards twice 1993 and1998.
Social Forestry means the management and protection of forest and afforestation of barren and deforested lands with the purpose of helping environmental, social and rural development. Social Forestry term was first used here in the state some 29 years earlier in 1990.Although The National Commission on Agriculture, Government of India recommender in one of its reports in 1976. Recommended that there is a dire and immediate need to supplement the efforts to create enthusiasm among masses for forest conservation and planting trees under Van Mahotsav program. Which was started by Kulapati Kanhaiyalal Munshi,the then Indian Union Minister for Agriculture and Food .It was called Social forestry which shall have the basic element for the people by the people and of the people approach. In a democratic way approach of forest conservation and usage. Agriculture Commission Report on rural Development has 17 volumes, elaborating each and every facets of rural economy. The recommendation of the Agriculture Commission came as a blessing in disguise to the Forest Department here. This writer as environmentalist activists has been in watch from very close quarters the way vandalism of Forests was carried upon.
A Government Sponsored exploitation to denude its world fame Forests. In the process threw cautious to the winds. Ignored well defined forest management practices which were in vogue in the state. Grow more Food in which a tiller was given free hand to grab as much Forest land as he can convert it to Agriculture purposes. It was under the directions of Revenue Minister late Mohammad Afzal Beig post 1947.Another one unscientific extraction of Green Gold even mother trees were not spared. Till a time came there was very little Green Gold to exploit. So to cover up misdeeds, avoid hue and cry. As news trickled in from other states that Social Forestry Programmes and tacit support of the centre Government. Which requires less greasing and arduous efforts to push the file for the approval? Department followed the track and got World Bank loan for the project sanctioned. And one fine morning mission was started with an appropriate Slogan serve the Society through the Social Forestry .That was the years 19981-82, project had sanctioned time frame of five years. Extended on public demand up to 1990-91. Project had an area of operation in all districts of the State except Leh and Kargil..Intent to raise plantations on village waste lands, river banks, canal sides, roadsides, farm bunds and on degraded Forest lands. Through these plantations it intends to protect the environment restore its aesthetic appeal. With it to release pressure from fragile environment. Through public participation fuel Fodder and small timber is made available. This a basic requirement of dire necessity to rum rural economy. Although such programmes were already here in the state. But post 1947 were allowed to suffer due to paucity of adequate funds. And over a period of time allowed to be discarded altogether. Department Forests used make available sufficient timer on monthly quota as per scale to urban society. Department of Food and Supply would through its network used to supply the ration card holders the Fuel Wood with the Essential commodities. These items used to be transported through navigated boats and made available as per calendar at fixed points on the both banks of River Jhelum. To ensure its availability due care used to be taken by the Forest Department not to give reason to complain and face wrath .The nostalgic view of it is still in the memories to cherish.
Maharaja Partap Singh earned the distinction of setting up the first food rationing department in India in 1918 and later on supply of fire wood was added to this system to control reckless felling. To meet the ever growing demand on the sustainable basis .Department of Forests created in a phased manner subjected to fund availability .About scores of wood lots in the valley with a sixteen years of rotational cutting programme for sustainable availability of Fuel Wood. In Jammu where comparatively due to climate demand of Fuel wood was less and was locally available even in Winter Capital Jammu. Apart from the fuel which is a basic necessity and wood based Fuel is renewal and everlasting. Whereas LPG is not renewal source costlier and undependable one in rural scenario. With it the Fodder on which the Livestock sector exclusively rests. Supplements income from crop production and other sources and absorbs income shocks due to crop failure. It generates a continuous stream of income and employment and reduces seasonality in livelihood patterns particularly of the rural poor (Birthal and Ali 2005).
While crop sector is on decline, livestock sector has shown constant rise in spite of impedes, annual growth of GDP,gross domestic product, from livestock is 7.3% in compression to much pampered crop sector is said to be mere3.1%. With it raising Plants for minor timber for local needs were met besides surplus to be sold and supplement the meagre income of the villagers. Project had envisaged with the World Bank loan to bring 440000 hectt area under various categories of plantation and 11 crores plants to be planted. Which shall generate over 12 million man days of employment during this period. And as per record which this a writer has with him had shown to achieve the target cent per cent. Under Strip Plantation, Wet Lands, Degraded Forests, Village Woodlots and Farm Forestry. Graph of achievement from a low key went up steadily. To start with first years it was 1700 hectt, next 4800 hectt, than 8650heecct, 13,359 Hectt, 15,500 hecct and grand total 44,000 hecct. Project had not a smooth sailing to start with.
Worrisome teething trouble were experienced to sell the idea to the villagers .Who were aware of its method of working. But with hard persuasion engaging Motivators from the wards of Opinion Leaders of the villages. Project started moving gaining momentum with each passing days.
Unfortunately with the World Bank period of assistance over, whole Project was brought to screeching halt. It was starved of funds and despite demand, in mid-June 2001 it was ordered to wind up. However it dragged its feet, only how to deal with its regular Staff. Paucity of adequate funds to carry on the mission to its logic end its growth started showing considerable retarded effects. It is standard practice observed in that when a Project period comes to end. It is left high and dry asking the locals protect and maintain themselves these raised assets minus required finical support on minimum basis. It is an irony what make those in the administration to comprehend that the marginalised section of the society shall do it. Knowing well this section has to toil hard just for a meagre two square meals. At times miss it too. Nurseries those established with a passage of time were discarded, and thus lost.
After procreated correspondence, some lobbying pleading the case Social Forestry Project was given sanction to convert it a full-fledged Project in October 2001. In its hay days Project had vibrant with its activities with peoples participation. Department has to double its efforts to meet the aspirations and demands in grey area. one of it is Fodder, and how to make value added Items out of Wood so produced, Which at present is sold as raw produce, not remunerative one to grow. Mass awareness; inculcate confidence, through the institution its Students induced to participate with enthusiasm. Let be a Social revolution active participation. Youth clubs, Women Clubs, opinion leaders of repute and off course the Panchayata has to be involved. Let it be called peoples movement with the Social Forestry participation. Availability of sapling should not be more than a Km away. All the more provide what is in demand in the area instead what the department has in hand. For it detail planning methodology has to be put in action.
(The Writer is a Jammu based Environmentalist)