Srinagar: Since 1990, 13900 hectares of forestland have been diverted for development projects and other non- forestry uses in Jammu and Kashmir.
Documents in possession of Precious Kashmir reveal that 13903.18 hectares of forestland have been utilized for non-forestry purposes in J&K since 1990 till date.
As many as 16.89 lakh trees/ poles/ saplings have been involved in forestland diversion cases during this period, the documents state.
According to the documents, against the diversion of 13903.18 hectares of forestland, 56665. 51 hectares of degraded forests have been rehabilitated till date.
They further reveal that 384 lakh saplings have been planted to compensate for the loss of 16. 89 lakh trees/ poles/ saplings involved in land diversion cases.
The documents further lay bare that Rs 1733. 23 crore have been deposited by user agencies with Jammu & Kashmir government as compensation for use of forestland for non-forestry purposes.
Before Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh came into existence, the government of Jammu and Kashmir had powers to allow use of forest land for non-forestry purposes within the State.
As per J&K Forest Conservation Act,1997 the government could make any order directing that any forestland or portion thereof may be used for non-forestry purposes on recommendation of an advisory committee.
Headed by Chief Secretary, the advisory committee comprised of senior bureaucrats including administrative secretaries of Finance and Planning Departments, and officials of Forest department.
The J&K Forest Conservation Act, 1997 was among the laws which were repealed by the Parliament when it approved bifurcation of J&K on August 5.
The law was replaced by Central Forest Conservation Act, 1980 which prohibits state government, without prior permission from Central government, from diverting forest land for non- forestry purposes.
Now, the cases where less than 40 hectares of forestland is involved are cleared by Regional Empowered Committee of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Environment (MOEF)at its regional office Chandigarh.
The cases involving more than 40 hectares of forestland are approved by the Forest Advisory Committee of MOEF, New Delhi.