Chief Secretary Arun Kumar Mehta on Monday directed the forest department to restore 1000 sq km degraded forest area in next fiscal year and also rejuvenate 3700 ponds across Jammu and Kashmir in next six months.
The Chief Secretary asked the forest department to replenish the denuded forest cover, increase plantation outside forest areas and repair the neglected water bodies using both traditional ecological knowledge and modern practices in convergence with the MGNREGA to kickstart a virtuous cycle of good soil health, increased land productivity, food security and improved livelihood in J&K.
Terming forests as an important climate mitigation strategy, Mehta asked the department to involve local communities and panchayats in applying deep knowledge of the local ecology in restoring their commons.
Hailing the departmental initiative-‘Van se Jal –Jal se Jivan’, the chief secretary said the campaign has to be focused more in areas of water stress in J&K and the views of the local people should also be sought in making this programme a success.
Urging the department to achieve the target of plantation of 1.3 crore plants set for this year, he said there is also a need to focus plantation in vulnerable areas, particularly on the highways where green cover can help in slope stabilization and prevent landslides.
Earlier commissioner Secretary, Forest, Sanjeev Verma made a presentation on UT capex in which he gave a broad overview of the current fiscal year.
Verma informed that out of Rs 90 crore released by finance department from an approved outlay of Rs 132 crore, the department has incurred an expenditure of Rs. 70 crore till 15 February.
Principal chief conservator of forests Mohit Gera informed that out of total of 20194 sq km of the forest area in J&K, around 2250 sq km forest area has degraded while further saying that the department on an average restores 100-200 sq km of the degraded forest area in a year.
The Chief Secretary directed the department to restore 1000 sq km forest area during the next year in convergence with the funds available under labour component under MGNREGA.
Gera said that the department has set a target of planting 1.3 crore plants this year and it is on course to meeting the target.
The forest department informed that out of 3700 traditional village ponds identified in the UT requiring repair and reconstruction, 57 ponds have been taken up under UT capex for repair during this financial year and so far 37 ponds have been reconstructed.
The Chief Secretary said repair and rejuvenation of these ponds will recharge the ground water and improve the whole ecosystem of lives and livelihood in the villages.
Saying that the practice of the people feeding monkeys on the national highways and tourist places has to be stopped, the chief secretary said the department needs to improve enforcement thorough heightened vigil and imposition of fines to deter people from doing so as it causes unnecessary accidental deaths of monkeys.
Mehta said the department needs to put a high premium on climate mitigation and ensure that vehicular pollution is effectively checked and the violators are suitably penalized.
He asked the department to ensure that visibly polluting vehicles from outside the UT are not allowed entry at Lakhanpur border.
The Chief Secretary directed the department to erect hoardings and billboards at Lakhanpur border carrying unequivocal directions from the department for the interstate commuters that the vehicles not conforming to the pollution norms will not be let into J&K.
Holding plastic littered on the roadsides and in and around forest areas as the terrible pollutant and eye sore, he asked the department to mount a campaign titled- ‘Say No to Plastics’ in the media advising the people against the use of the plastics.
Appreciating the conservation works carried out in the surroundings of the Wullar Lake, the chief secretary said the unrivalled beauty of the lake needs to be celebrated and asked the department to hold Wullar lake festival thrice- during spring, summer and autumn- in a year.