Editorial: Forest cover and budgetary allocations

The phenomenon of increased population puts a lot of pressure on the natural resources. However, in our case the pressure on our natural resources has been manifold as the population and urbanisation we have witnessed over the past two decades is quite abnormal.

For a number of reasons, forest lands have been diverted to non-forest purposes. For example, in the wake of expanding industrial enterprise of a region like ours, land is needed as an item of basic infrastructure.

However, no doubt, in our State, forest authorities and policy planners have envisaged in good time the need of afforestation. As a result, we have the important forest conservation wing which takes care of giving new life to forest wealth by planting saplings of the variety that flourish in respective forest compartments. However, we have been noticing gradual decline in the allocations for afforestation programmes in our annual budget.

Although, the Government functionaries have been emphasizing on the importance of green cover also called green gold, yet we find that the allocations for maintaining the forest cover especially for nude areas have been dwindling which has become a reason for concern for the ecologists in the State

For implementing developmental schemes necessity diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes is continuously taking place that too at a large scale in Jammu and Kashmir during the past several years. However, pace of afforestation is not up to the mark only because of meager financial resources despite the tall claims of the present dispensation about conservation of green gold wealth of the State.

Interestingly, during the financial year 2013- 14, an amount of Rs 223 crore was made available from all the resources for afforestation of nude forest areas and by utilizing this amount Forest Department treated 13603 hectares of area by planting 93.05 lakh plants.

However, during the financial year 2014-15, the allocation was reduced to Rs 80.60 crore as a result of which only 8447.53 hectares of forest area could be covered under afforestation drive by planting merely 55.87 lakh plants. In 2015-16, the financial resources were squeezed to Rs 58.47 crore due to which only 8015 hectares of area could be taken up for afforestation.

The intensity of continuous decline in financial assistance for the afforestation purpose can be gauged from the fact that during the last financial year (2016) an amount of only Rs 17.56 crore was made available for this vital exercise as a result of which only 3126 hectares of area could be taken up and only 8.23 lakh plants were planted.

We have quoted these figures from the official document of the Forest Department. From Rs 223 crore in 2013 the allocations have come down to Rs 17.56 crore and this shows the low priority assigned to afforestation programme by the Government. If the trend of reducing allocations for afforestation continues for some more years, we will be facing a critical condition in regard to our ecological balance. Many of our forests will become nude and apart from ecological degradation we shall also be losing the lever of attracting tourists.

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