New Delhi: The forest and tree cover in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) is about 55 per cent, which is substantially higher than the national average of 24.56 per cent. Yet the UT administration under Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha did not allow complacency to grow and undertook several measures towards increasing the carbon stock, especially in villages near degraded forests.
In the words of Lt Governor Sinha, the ‘Green Jammu & Kashmir’ campaign aims at creating a people’s movement at a massive scale with the involvement of all stakeholders, particularly village panchayats, women, students, Urban local bodies, NGOs and civil society.
The Green J&K drive itself is commensurate with the National Forest Policy 1988 and the Jammu and Kashmir Forest Policy 2011, which envisages afforestation on all degraded and denuded lands
in the union territory within and outside forests.
Certain targets have been achieved progressively under the UT administration. In 2020-21, plants planted were 101.98 lakhs, and areas afforested were 15204 hectares. In 2021-22, it was 137.20 lakh plantations and areas afforested stood at 17138 hectares.
Official sources say the forest of J&K has the country’s highest carbon stock per unit area, and the forest cover of J&K also increased by 29 km.
A recent Forest Survey of India report revealed that J&K had witnessed an increase in the total forest cover. The report also said the emission intensity of carbon in J&K forests is 98.2 tonnes per hectare.
To ensure widespread people’s participation in government-sponsored plantation drives, the government is adopting a multi-disciplinary convergence model linking school-level eco clubs, Village Panchayat Plantation Committees and MGNREGA work to various plantation and protection drives, sources say.
The most significant achievement under Har Gaon Hariyali is that a massive convergence programme is taking place by dovetailing funds under MG-NREGA and the afforestation programme of the forest department. Under the low-cost mode of greening and increasing the forest and tree cover, more than 50 lakh seeds/grass slips will likely be planted during 2022-23.
Notably, NITI Aayog, in its `State Energy and Climate Index’ report, has revealed that J&K have 94.5 tonnes of carbon stock per hectare of forest land while Andaman and Nicobar top the list with 96.4 tons of carbon stock per hectare.
Carbon stock refers to the amount of carbon stored in forests in biomass, soil, deadwood, and litter. An increase in green cover and carbon stock indicates a healthy trend in dealing with global warming.
In agro-forest economic perspective, the forests in J&K generate nearly 2 million man-days of employment and have a monetary value equivalent to Rs 1.93 lakh crore.
J&K have 20,194 sq km of forest area, which is 47.80 per cent of its geographical area, with 55 per cent forest and tree cover and 43 per cent open forest. Besides having the maximum number of forest types, J&K also has the highest biodiversity of herbs in the country.