Cedar crisis

Numbers declining fast; afforestation insufficient

 
By SAATVIKA RAI
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015



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70 per cent of cedar trees, also known as deodar, have vanished from the forests of Jammu and Kashmir following the ban imposed on timber exports by states like Himachal Pradesh way back in 1977. To meet the demand for wood, mass destruction of the state's forests has taken place since then. Almost 3,500 to 4,000 truckloads of logs has been transported from the state daily. The government also signed various wood-supply contracts with industries and exported about 3,000 logs of cedar daily to other countries.

The Supreme Court has now banned the felling of green cedar trees. Only fallen cedar can be used within the limited purview of the state. The State Forest Corporation auctions this wood at Rs 2,000 to 2,500 per log. Paucity of cedar wood has led to fewer houseboats in the Dal Lake: the current number is around 1,015 and is estimated to drop to 300 in another 20 years.

While the state's forests are depleting fast, the renewal process is slow. The Centre provided Rs 100 crore to the state two years ago for afforestation. But no concrete steps have been taken so far. "It takes time to set up committees. We are now at the take off stage for the project and have spent around Rs 20 crore," says S D Satantra of the state Forest Department. But the government practices mixed plantation, which, Satantra says, is "need based and location specific". Environmentalists, however, allege that it prefers planting tress like the pine, fur and willow, which make results visible in just two-three years (it can take over seven years for the cedar).

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