On December 30, 2019, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar, released the biennial “India State of Forest Report (ISFR)” in New Delhi. The report said that forest cover in the country had increased by 3,976 square kilometres and Jammu and Kashmir was among the top five states/UTs where the forest cover had increased the most during the last two years. The forest cover increased by 348 sq km in UT of J&K and by 23 sq km in UT of Ladakh.
The report further said that the forests of J&K have recorded the highest growing stock of wood per unit area, which is 144.16 cubic meter per hectare. The total carbon stock of forests in UTs including ‘Trees outside Forests’ is 390.20 million tonnes (1430.73 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent), which is 5.48 percent of the total forest carbon of the country.
The SFR-2019 revealed that the extent of forest cover and trees outside forests in UT of Jammu and Kashmir is 29,066 sq km, which is 55 percent of the total geographical area of UT of J&K.
A total of 42 forest types are found in the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh, which are the most in the country and proof of the diversity of forest ecosystems in J&K.
National studies on biodiversity and forests which examined a range of flora and fauna concluded that “Forestry plantations can make a significant positive contribution to biodiversity in the landscape if properly planned and managed.” In all new planted forests in Jammu and Kashmir, the regulations stipulate that the planted area must be managed for biodiversity through the planting of broadleaf trees and retaining open space to benefit wildlife. Sensitive areas such as riparian zones along streams and rivers are not planted with commercial species and are left as permanent wildlife corridors.
The world needs wood and as the global population rises, demand for fibre and wood products also increases. In order to decarbonise, we need to select lower-carbon construction products than concrete, bricks and steel to drive our economy. Wood and wood products are an obvious answer.
To achieve this, we need more forests. Carefully planned and managed plantation forests can give us the timber we need and also support biodiversity. Most importantly, they can ease the pressure on our existing natural and native woodlands.
Many of our most renowned and valuable forests for wildlife and biodiversity are free to visit, including the world famous Surinsar Mansar Wildlife Sanctuary, Nandini Wildlife Sanctuary, Kishtwar National Park, Dachigam National Park, Hemis National Park, and Overa Aru Wildlife Sanctuary. Let us pledge to preserve them and cherish them.
—The writer is a student of forestry at BR Ambedkar University Agra. [email protected]