Tribals say apple trees felled in forests in anti-encroachment drive

KT NEWS SERVICE. Dated: 12/5/2020 11:45:48 PM

‘Tree Authorities’ mooted in urban areas for better air quality

SRINAGAR, Dec 4: A day after the Jammu and Kashmir government announced the formation of ‘Tree Authorities’, the Mayor of Srinagar, Junaid Azim Mattu, stated that the prime focus of newly constituted “Tree Authorities” would be on “massive urban plantation of dust resistant and indigenous trees to improve our Air Quality Index, reduce dust and pollution”.
Mattu, who was recently re-elected to the mayoral office, said, in a tweet: “As Chairperson of the newly constituted Tree Authority for Srinagar, our prime focus will be on a massive urban plantation of dust resistant and indigenous trees to improve our Air Quality Index, reduce dust and pollution. Yearly and five-yearly targets to be set.”
Earlier, on Thursday, the government had formed a five-member “Tree Authorities” to ensure the preservation of all trees within the jurisdiction of Srinagar and Jammu Municipal Corporations.
It is to be headed by the mayor of the respective corporations, the ‘tree authorities’ have been also tasked to obtain a declaration from all owners or occupants about the number of trees in their lands, to specify the standards regarding the number and kind of tress in each locality and type of land and premises.
As per the order, the authorities have been also tasked to assist private and public institutions connected with planting and preservation of trees and undertake such schemes or measures as may be directed from time to time for achieving the objectives of these provisions. Besides Mayor as chairman, the respective authorities comprise Deputy Mayor, Commissioner, divisional forest officer urban forestry division and district horticulture officer.
In striking contrast to the bid to preserve trees in urban areas, a report pointed out that Forest Department chopped down hundreds of apple trees in Kanidajan and its adjacent areas of Central Kashmir’s Budgam district today.
According to local news gathering agency, KNT, several Gujjar community members and other locals said that a few days back Forest Department issued them a notice accusing them of encroaching forest land.
“After serving the notice, the forest department not only chopped down hundreds of apple trees but also razed some ‘dhoks’ to the ground,” they said.
“We have been living here for centuries; even our ancestors lived here and planted these apple trees. It was really heart wrenching to see these trees falling,” said a local of Kanidajan.
A nomad accepted that they are living in forest land but added that they are living here for centuries and never were they touched or harassed, prior to this.
A forest official said that an eviction notice to the “encroachers” was sent a month ago. “We will retrieve forest land everywhere,” he said but failed to give a satisfying reply about the cutting of hundreds of apple trees, according to KNT.



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