‘Due to official neglect, Jammu is not only losing green cover, but also its rich biodiversity’.


Srinagar: In the last few days, there have been huge forest fires in Katra, Rajouri and Poonch, prompting the government to take some remedial measures as Jammu is witnessing hundreds of such cases. Rising temperatures and winds have spread the forest fires in Jammu region to abnormal levels, triggering panic and concerns among the residents, who live near the forests.
The J&K forest department has been maintaining that they have created more forest control rooms and were trying to tackle the situation, but the growing forest fires in the hilly regions of Jammu show that the government is not able to tackle it. According to a senior scientist of botany Dr Zainul from J&K, the forest fires have damaged the diversity of floral and faunal wealth. He said that due to official neglect, Jammu is not only losing green cover but also rich biodiversity. Many other social activists and residents of Jammu agree with the scientist and have urged the government to take some steps on a war footing to save these forests from further damage. Unusual rising temperatures and strong winds have increased the forest fires in Jammu region as the panic was triggered in Katra forests, Udhampur, and now in Poonch where landmine blasts amid the forest fires have added to the worries of residents. According to a botanist and researcher Dr Bansi Lal, it will have a huge impact on the ecology and livelihood of the people. He said that the government should focus on forest fires; otherwise, it will trigger soil erosion and flash floods in future. In the past few days, there has been an alarming increase in the forest fires of Jammu hills and one of such fires forced the authorities to suspend Vaishno Devi Yatra from the new Tarakote and Himkoti Marg routes. There have been similar massive forest fire incidents in Poonch district and it was controlled by nature on Wednesday due to heavy rains. There were dozens of mine blasts while the forest fires were being witnessed in the Mankote area of Mendar in Poonch district. It was the timely intervention of the army along with police that the panic among the people was controlled as the army immediately cordoned the area to look for more mines in the area.
Soldiers, along with police, controlled another forest fire in Daramsal forests in the nearby area, but there are dozens of such reports coming to the media from both Poonch and Rajouri districts. Army, police and forest officials said that they had a tough battle in the Sunderbani forest of Rajouri district to control the forest fires near the LoC. Giving details, the army told media that massive forest fires engulfed a huge area from Kalidar area to Kalal near LoC in Rajouri district. There have been hundreds of forest fire incidents in the Jammu region in the past two weeks, damaging forests in Udhampur, Katra, Rajouri and Poonch areas. Thousands of people whose livelihood is dependent upon forests and forest produce have been urging the authorities to take some timely steps to save the forests. A senior forest official told this newspaper that unusual rising temperatures, dryness of bushes and winds have been triggering such fires and it was beyond their control to stop such fires.