Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Monday said the government was strictly enforcing Wildlife Conservation Act in the state to protect various endangered species.

After a meeting of State Board for Wildlife, Thakur said better coordination between development and conservation of ecosystem was the need of the hour.

“Being a Himalayan state, forests play a major role in maintenance of ecological balance and the state government is laying special emphasis on afforestation,” he said, adding around 1.20 crore saplings would be planted in the state this year.

He said the forests of the state comprise rich biodiversity and apart from providing fodder, timber and medicinal plants to the local community, the forests also were home to a large variety of wildlife.

He emphasized the need for ecological balance for the well being of humanity and said 15 percent of the geographical area of the State falls under protected area network.

“There are five national parks, 25 wildlife sanctuaries and 3 nature conservation reserves in the state,” he said, while expressing happiness over the success of captive breeding of Tragopan.

Chief Minister said endeavours would be made to develop Pong Dam reservoir as a major tourists’ attraction keeping in view that large number of migrated birds visit the wetland every year which makes it a bird watchers paradise.

The government would ensure that various developmental activities in wildlife areas cause minimum damages to ecosystem and wildlife.

Further, it was our duty to effectively conserve our environment and wildlife as they were vital for healthy eco system, he said.

Thakur appreciated the activities being undertaken by the Forest department even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that various issues regarding diversion of 2.80 hectares forest land in Shikari Devi Wildlife Sanctuary for upgradation of existing Thunag Panjut-Lambasafar Chilamgrd-Shikari Mata road would be taken with the appropriate authority.

This would help in facilitating the tourists visiting Shikari Mata every year besides the local populace, he added.

He also asked the department to take up the matter for diversion of 1.55 hectare forest land in Khokhan wildlife sanctuary for extension of existing Dohranala-Shilirajgiri (Chesta) road upto Lot Rohlagi village in Kullu district.

State Forest Minister Govind Singh Thakur said the Protected Area Network has a great potential of ecotourism and Great Himalayan National Park is a world heritage site whereas Pong Dam, Renukaji and Chandetal Ramsar sites are attracting domestic as well as foreign tourists.

Additional Chief Secretary Forests Sanjay Gupta also addressed the gathering and said that matters approved by the State Wildlife Board will be sent to the National Wildlife Board at the earliest for seeking final approval.