Friday, August 21, 2009

PART-V: Wild species face extinction threat

Man-animal conflict a major challenge

Ajmer Alam Wani

JAMMU, AUG 21: Though the tropical forests cover only 7 % of the earth’s land surface, they contain more than half of all living species. Estimates of the number of living species on earth vary from five million to 80 million of which only 1.4 million have been described. Wild species and the genetics variations within them make substantial contributions to the development of agriculture, medicine and industry.

According to an estimate, between 1990 and 2020, species extinction caused primarily by deforestation may eliminate between 5 and 15 per cent of the world’s species, a potential loss of 15,000 to 50,000 species a year. The forest area is considerably decreasing day by day. The satellite imageries study of National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) revealed that forest area in 1972-75 was 55.5 mha only, which reduced to just 46.3 mha in 1980-82, indicating an average rate of depletion of forest area of about 1.3 mha per year. As per India’s National Forest Policy, the present ratio is not up to the mark. The degraded forest land is approximately around 30 mha out of total 67 mha.

In order to overcome this problem, Government of India formulated National Development Wastelands Boards in 1985 and its objective was to launch intensive plantation programmes by involving local people to bring more and more degraded land under plantation cover. In order to check rapid rate of extinction of bio-diversity concerted efforts are being made by various agencies.

They are on the job to protect areas in the form of biospheres, national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves in terrestrial eco-system, mangroves and coral reefs in marine eco-system and wetlands in fresh water ecosystem. Sources further added that a network of 14 bio-spheres, 83 national parks and 447 sanctuaries cover about 18 mha area in the country. The situation is worsening and more and more agencies are being involved for the task in coming days.

The impact of deforestation is visible in urban areas too. Besides the mushrooming of hotels and residential places around some of the lakes, silt washed from the mountains during the rains is described as the main reason for shrinking of the lakes. While water bodies are shrinking, some have just vanished. For instance, the Neelnag Lake in Pulwama District and the Sanasar Lake in Udhampur District have disappeared, despite the State Government's efforts to revive them. The impact on the tourism was immediate. The total area of the Wular Lake came down by 65 sq. km from 279, a reduction of 20 per cent. The Dal Lake has shrunk to13 from 20 in the last 100 years and attempts to revive it have been far from satisfactory. came down to 65

Another outcome of the unchecked deforestation in Jammu and Kashmir state, is man-animal conflict in which several people have been killed so far besides injuring scores.

During the past two years, 75 people were reported to have been killed and 330 others injured in wild animal attacks in Jammu and Kashmir state.

This reporter’s series alert Forest officials

JAMMU, AUG 21: Late Yet Better, finally the Forest Department has starting waking up to the series of reports being published by this reporter under series GREEN GOLD IN DANGER, highlighting illegal deforestation and the threats being faced by the green forests in upper reaches of the erstwhile Doda district.

Reports reaching this office in the late Friday evening said that a team of Forest officials have seized 47 kandels of timber consisting of 40, 18, 14 and 10 feet slippers in Chiralla Forest Range of Bhaderwah Forest Division which is at-lest 35 kilometers from road. The team of forest officials comprising of Forest Beat Guards Mohammed Lateef and Jaswant Singh seized 47 kandels of Deodar. The forest officials also caught one Hoshiari Lal S/o Jia Lal R/o Zila-da-Pani red handed from the spot where 2 fully green trees were shortened to ground by him for timber smuggling.

Forest smugglers have been posing major threat to the green gold in different compartments of Chiralla Forest Range which has been highlighted in details by this reporter in its previous issues under series GREEN GOLD IN DANGER. To check the menace of forest smuggling and preserve green gold from further damage, Chiralla Forest Range of Bhaderwah Forest Division requires the a permanent Forest Protection Force Post immediately.

Talking to this reporter, Forest Beat Guard Jaswant Singh while confirming the seizure admitted that the forests in Chiralla Forest Range have suffered a major damage which is continued in the absence of proper check by the previous officials”.

He added that “Chiralla is very is far-flung area, though I am moving to perform my duties honestly to save my job but as the area is very vast and widespread so the a post of Forest Protection Force (FPF) is required to protect the forest from further damage.

He, however, mentioned that if the Range Office starts functioning from Chiralla Forest Range instead of Bhaderwah town the green gold can be saved from further illegal felling. He added that 47 kandels of Deodar have been seized and case registered. When contacted, Conservator Chinab Valley Circle Doda, M.J Sharma said that he has no knowledge about the seizure. Replying another question about deforestation he disassociates himself from the giving reply, which raises few questions. However, he added, I will collect the details about the seizure and deforestation.

When contacted, Range Officer (Ranger) Forest Range Chiralla, Mohammed Haroon, held militancy the reason responsible for deforestation. He mentioned that due to the militancy Field Staff was unable to visit the area during the past few years and also the people used militants as shield to scare forest staff and go for fearless deforestation.

The officer added that the Chiralla Forest Range needs demarcation and mentioned that he had written to the higher officials and minister requesting for fresh demarcation so the Forest land encroached upon by people can be evacuated.

The officer admitted that in Compartment No-1 of Chiralla Forest Range, deforestation has been done and encroachments are very much in existence but the fresh demarcation is required to be done for proper identification of forest land which at present is not so easy as the last demarcation was done some 30 years ago, he added. So let us see how fast the Govt will react with the fresh demarcation.

Minister of Forest (MoS) Forests, Shabir Ahmed Khan when contacted said that Government is going very strict against the green felling and all those involved in cutting of green gold will be punished. He added that measures are being taken to protect the green gold across the state. He mentioned that different wings are being set-up and activated in all those area which are under the active influence of deforestation and forest smugglers.

When asked about the deforestation and encroachments in the Compartment Nos-2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and 9 of Chiralla Forest Range, Khan said that an inquiry will be set-up into the deforestation and encroachments in Chiralla Forest Range and all possible measures will be taken to protect the green gold.

Relevant to mention here that some months back Minister for Forest, Ecology and Environment, Mian Altaf Ahmed while addressing the officials of Wildlife, Forest and Forest Protection Force (FPF) had called upon Wildlife Department to take concrete steps to contain increasing man–animal conflicts, but the question rises here that authorities concerned have never tried to identify the root cause which lies in the unchecked deforestation.

The minister had described the problem of man-animal conflict as a major challenge faced by the department adding that there was a greater need to take extra caution for maintaining the perfect balance.

No doubt the minister had expressed concern over the increasing biotic pressure on natural resources in the State and had also warned that the shrinking of the State’s rich biodiversity would have direct affect on the life of the people.

However, Mian Altaf had assured that the State Government will make all out efforts to strengthen the department through additional manpower, equipment, mobility, communication facilities, veterinary care and compensation package for effective control of wildlife crimes and handling of human-wild animal conflict situations but on grounds nothing concrete is visible.

Worthwhile to mention here that the forests and landscapes not only regulate the climate of the region but these are also main attractions for the tourists visiting Jammu and Kashmir so it the authorities concerned and the state Government have to think positively into the problem and came out with a practical policy to save green gold and the species which are on the verge on extension. Otherwise the day will not be far-behind when we will read about these species in books only decorated in the libraries.