Forest Land Encroachment Increase By 88% In J&K During 2003-12

2 April 2015
Kashmir Times

Jammu: Encroachment of forest land, which accounted for 16,053 Sq Kms under actual control of the state, increased by a staggering 88 percent, from 9214.53 Hectares to 17, 352 Hectares during March 2003 to March 2012. This was despite the fact that the department had a separate establishment in the form of Forest Protection Force (FPF) to prevent encroachment of the forest lands. The forest land measuring 6281.28 Hectares were diverted between the period of 2002-12 to various user agencies for non-forest purposes by 30 Territorial Divisions (TDs) and three other units without obtaining alternate land from the concerned district administration as required under rules. Thus diversion of forest land resulted in reduction of forest area to that extent. This has been revealed in the audit for the year ended March 31, 2014. While the figures for the period 2012-14, though called for, were not provided for the audit till June 2014. The forest department however in August 2014 reported that the use of forest land for non-forestry purposes was being made as per provisions of the J&K Forest Conservation Act, 1997 and that all efforts were made to take the equivalent non-forest land for Compensatory Afforestation from the respective Deputy Commissioners. The J&K Forest (Conservation) Act 1997 envisages that all efforts have to be made to identify equivalent non-forest area for Compensatory Afforestation (CA). The non-availability of non-forest land for Compensatory Afforestation has to be accepted only on the certificate from the Deputy Commissioner of the concerned District-Divisional Commissioner. In 136 cases, 303.80 Hectates of forest land was diverted for non-forest purposes. It was observed in the audit that against this, though CA amounts were received from the user departments-agencies, neither alternate non-forest land was identified by the Territorial Divisions (TDs) nor certificate of non-availability of non-forest land was obtained from the district administration, thus indicating that stress had not been laid for ensuring transfer of alternate land for CA purposes. Test check of records of audited TDs showed that 90 sanctions i.e., for Sindh (11), Lidder (11), Anantnag (13), Langate (10), Kehmil (18), Shopian (5), Kamraj (8), Tagmarg (2) and Budgam (12) from February 2006 to February 2013 relating to diversion of 123.93 Hectares of land for non-forest purpose, Net Present Value (NPV) and Compensatory Afforestation (CA) amounting to Rs 13.40 Cr had not been realized by Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA). The department in August 2014 reported that all efforts were being made to recover the outstanding dues from the user agencies against the old sanctioned cases and that the matter had been taken with the respective administrative departments for payment. The State Forest Policy was prepared in 2010-11 more than 23 years after formulation of National Forest Policy (1988). Working plans were prepared in five out of 30 TDs only. Due to non-formulation-finalization of working plans for all the TDs against earmarked funding of grant of Rs 66.52 Cr for the period 2012-13 to 2013-14, the Government of India released Rs 16.63 Cr only resulting in short release of Rs 49.89 Crores.