Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], June 27 (ANI): Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha called for bringing in new avenues under the ambit of the Forest Department to further enhance the contribution of the forest sector in the economic growth of Jammu and Kashmir.
Sinha on Sunday attended the commemoration of the foundation day of the Forest Department on which a programme named '130 Years of Dedicated Service' was held at Raj Bhavan.
At the event, he called for bringing in new avenues like Ecotourism, promotion of Wood-Based Industries, Non-Timber Forest Products under the ambit of the Forest Department to further enhance the contribution of the forest sector in the economic growth of Jammu and Kashmir.
The occasion witnessed the release of a documentary on 'Chinar' emphasizing awareness and promotion of plantation of Chinar, Special Cover prepared by Department of Post, India, besides launching of 'One Beat Guard-One Village' programme by the Lt Governor.
Multiple publications including Booklets on Green Jammu and Kashmir Drive 2020-21, Forest Huts of J&K-2021 and J&K Forest Law Compendium Volume- I & II, giving much-needed insight covering various aspects of the forest sector were also released to mark the day. An online booking portal for Forest Huts was also inaugurated on the occasion.
Stressing upon maintaining a perfect balance between nature and development, Sinha termed the role of Forest Department as vital in this regard and further asked the concerned functionaries to explore methods for minimizing the adverse impacts of development.
"Jammu and Kashmir is on the path of rapid development. Taking Governance to the doorstep of people is the top-most priority of the UT Government. To achieve the desired results, there is need to put special focus on Jan-Bhagidhari and active involvement of grass root level institutions like Village Panchayats in Natural Resource Management," said the Lt Governor.
He appreciated the Forest Department for carrying out afforestation works with the involvement of village panchayats.
While speaking on safeguarding the livelihood of the people depending on the forests, the Lt Governor observed that with more than half of the area of Jammu and Kashmir under forest and tree cover, the lives of people are closely linked to the forests. "They also expect timely delivery of services such as firewood, fodder, and timber," he added.
The Lt Governor underlined the importance of implementing the Forest Rights Act in letter and spirit in a time-bound manner. He directed the concerned officials to take stringent action against those encroaching prime forest lands.
Taking note of the focused attention required for the development and preservation of Chaar Chinar in the world-famous Dal lake of Srinagar, the Lt Governor instructed the department for taking technical expertise in this regard.
Stressing on exploring the possibility of making Dachigam a more accessible local destination, the Lt Governor asked the Forest officials to open the area for tourism purposes on a permission basis through online mode.
He also took stock of the directions passed previously pertaining to the development of Park at Purmandal area, besides streamlining forests clearance process.
Highlighting the achievements made under the Forest sector by the union territory, the Lt Governor congratulated the forest department and the administration for the efforts to increase the forest cover.
"A nation's strength predominantly rests in its natural resources. India ranks among the top twelve mega-diverse countries of the world. Jammu and Kashmir harbors huge diversity in vegetation due to its geographic and altitudinal variation. It also has highest diversity of herbs in the country," remarked the Lt Governor.
Citing the SDG report, Sinha expressed satisfaction over Jammu and Kashmir being categorized as a performer.
"Jammu and Kashmir holds the most diverse forests in the country with 42 types of forests, denoting the diversity of forest ecosystems in the union territory, and tops the list in terms of standing timber volume per unit area at 144.16 cubic meters. Forest cover has increased by 20 per cent during the last year. As per the report, in the year 2019, the total forest area in Jammu and Kashmir was 10.46 per cent which has increased to 39.66 per cent in the year 2020," observed the Lt Governor.
Noting a report of the Government of India for 2019, the Lt Governor said that Jammu and Kashmir, with an increase of 348sq km of forest cover, has figured among the top five states that have registered the highest increase in forest cover.
The monetary value of benefits like timber, firewood, fodder, and Non-Timber Forest Products as assessed by the Directorate of Economics and Statistics are worth around Rs 3000 crore which is close to 2 per cent of the GDP of Jammu and Kashmir. By tapping its growth potential, the Forest Sector can also increase its contribution to the GDP of the UT, maintained the Lt Governor.
The Lt Governor stressed the need to support Wood-Based Industries which provides employment as well as contributes significantly to the economy. Improving efficiency and transparency should be the priority of the department while regulating the Wood-based industry, he added.
The Lt Governor also underscored the significance of the various initiatives launched by the Forest Department.
"I am sure the 'Green Jammu and Kashmir Drive' with a target of planting 130 lakh plants will contribute significantly in this direction. This target of 130 Lakh will also mark the completion of 130 years of dedicated service of the department", said the Lt Governor.
The Lt Governor appreciated the new initiative of 'One Beat Guard-One Village'. He said that the initiative will go a long way in increasing the green cover and support the Jal Shakti Abhiyan on 'Catch the Rain: Where it Falls, When it Falls'.
On the development of Urban Green Spaces by the Forest Department, the Lt Governor said that the initiative involving stakeholders like Urban Local Bodies other line Departments, Educational Institutions, NGOs and civil society will contribute significantly towards reducing air and noise pollution in urban areas.
He further termed the development of the 'City Biodiversity Index' for Jammu and Srinagar cities as imperative in self-assessment by the Administration for measuring and managing the biodiversity in these cities.
In his concluding remarks, the Lt Governor complimented the Forest Department on the completion of 130 years of dedicated service and wished the officials success in their endeavour in preserving, protecting, and developing the forest wealth of Jammu and Kashmir.
Dr Arun Kumar Mehta, Chief Secretary, in his address, underlined the need for documenting the work done by the Forest Department for supporting the livelihood generation of the people.
Sanjeev Verma, Commissioner Secretary, Department of Forest, Ecology and Environment, while speaking on the occasion, gave a brief overview of the various initiatives taken by the Forest Department to protect and increase the green cover in Jammu and Kashmir.
Dr Mohit Gera, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests & HoFF, in his welcome address, gave a detailed briefing about the functioning of the Forest Department. He informed that 29 Forest Huts are now open for the public and 20 more to be open soon.
Nitishwar Kumar, Principal Secretary to Lt Governor, Gaurav Srivastava, Director Postal Services, T Rabi Kumar, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Central), Sarvesh Rai, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and other senior officers were present on the occasion. (ANI)