“The land measuring 813 kanals and 19 marlas (40.65 hectares) falls under conservative reserve, which consists of 38000 small, medium and big trees”
Score of young volunteers have conspicuously invigorated 1973’s Chipko Movement, reportedly to save over 38000 trees and various species of different flora and fauna, besides a huge chunk of green cover at Raika Forests in Jammu, which is the proposed site for the construction of new High Court complex.
As a part of the ‘Chipko Movement’ in Jammu, the volunteers from different age groups under the banner of Climate Front India commemorated Valentine’s Day by hugging the trees, in order to circulate a symbolic message among masses that Forests are lungs of Jammu region.
Talking to The Typewriter, Anmol Ohri, Founding Director Climate Front India said that the main idea behind this symbolic protest is to show the authorities that young generations are very cautious about changing climate.
“The revival of the Chipko Movement after almost 50 years is itself an indicator to ascertain the gravity of the situation. We deliberately launched it on Valentines’ Day, because it will attract more youth towards the cause,” said Anmol, adding that their movement involved hugging of trees and it will continue if authorities did not budge to dissuade chopping off the woods.
He said that if needed, they will approach the Apex Court to safeguard the green cover of Jammu.
“We need to understand how important these forests are. Instead of developing infrastructure over Forest land, which is already shrinking in our country, we demand that the government move towards a sustainable and alternative form of infrastructure development,” said Anmol Ohri, adding that in this particular instance, the apathy of the forest department of Jammu and Kashmir is visible.
He alleged that the proposal on said land was approved by the Forest Department with due negligence without considering its adverse impact on the environment and wildlife.
“There is a blatant violation of laws while allotting the forest land for the expansion of Jammu and Kashmir High Court premises,” said Anmol, adding that it was the inherent responsibility of Jammu Development Authority (JDA) to provide land for the construction of judicial infrastructure.
Anmol further claimed that JDA is in possession of more than 80, 000 kanals of land in Jammu region, so it could have easily allotted land for the construction of judicial infrastructure. “The Bahu conservation reserve are the lungs of Jammu region, as it provides green cover along with a pertinent source of fresh air,” he said and added that the deforestation will blow the green cover and the Jammu region will turn into a gas chamber, which will certainly cause a huge loss that would be irreparable.
According to the relevant documents available with The Typewriter, in 2019, the department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs approached the Chief Conservator of Forest for allotment of forest land measuring 813 kanals and 19 marlas at village Bahu and Raika, Jammu for the shifting of judicial infrastructure of J&K High Court.
“The land measuring 813 kanals and 19 marlas (40.65 hectares) falls under conservative reserve, which consists of 38000 small, medium and big trees. Due to the proposed expansion of judicial infrastructure at Jammu, these trees will be axed down, causing great deforestation,” reads the document, adding that this conservative reserve is the biggest forest reserve in Jammu region, widely spread over 19.75 kilometers square.
It is pertinent to mention that the proposed site also falls within the eco-sensitive zone of Ramnagar Wildlife Sanctuary, as the aerial disutance of the proposed site from the wildlife sanctuary is 3.75 kms. The statutory law, i.e the Jammu and Kashmir Forest Conservation Act, 1997 under which the whole proposal was approved, stipulates that the forest clearance shall be given in all exceptions not exceeding 5 hectares of land. Ostensibly, 40.65 hectares of forest land is allotted for proposal in a hasty manner violating the Jammu and Kashmir Forest Conservation Act, 1997.
Bahu and Raika were declared as Bahu Conservative Reserve and Ramnagar Wildlife Sanctuary in terms of Government order no FST/20 of 1981. On 11-10-2019, Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs submitted intent for forest clearance for development of judicial infrastructure of the High Court. Chief Conservator Officer vide communication No PCCF/FCS/3-11/4225-29 forwarded the intent to the Divisional Forest Officer, Jammu for processing the case for forest clearance. On 14-10-2019, Divisional Forest Officer submitted the case to the conservator of forests, east circle. On 15-10-2019, the conservator of forest submitted the case to the Principal Chief Conservator of forest for further consideration. On the same date, the Principal Chief Conservator approved the placing of the proposal before 117th FAC of Jammu and Kashmir. On the same date, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) gave nod to the project, the committee was headed by Chief Secretary of J&K. Meanwhile, on 18-10-2019, during the 15th meeting of the Standing Committee of State Board of Wildlife, under the chairmanship of advisor to the Governor, for wildlife clearance, it was decided that after getting the project details, the proposal shall be again placed before the board/standing committee.
However, on 22-10-2019, State Administrative Council headed by Governor approved the proposal for the use of 40.65 hectares of forest land for development of judicial infrastructure of High Court Jammu. Next day, the Chief Conservator of forests submitted an enumeration list of over 38006 trees falling in the forest land for this project. Without giving heed to the axing of more than 38000 trees, the standing Committee of State Board of Wildlife on the same day approved the proposal in its 16th meeting.