Wullar Conservation: Afforestation targeted on 2600 hectares ZULFIKAR AHMAD SmallerDefaultLarger Srinagar, Feb 1: The State Government has targeted afforestation on more than 2600 hectares and aided regeneration on more than 1500 hectares of Wullar catchments in the next four years. The afforestation work has been targeted in the conservation management action plan of Asia’s largest freshwater lake, Wullar, in north Kashmir. The project was inaugurated by the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on December 7 last year. Check dams on 0.40 lakh cum, crate wire dam on 1.20 lakh cum, stream bank protection on 0.17 lakh cum, 231 landslide control structures and 450 water harvesting structures have also been targeted in the next four years. The project would also focus on management of horticulture and dry land agriculture in the catchments of the lake. About 268 hectares have been identified for the promotion of agro forestry while 595 hectares of catchments would be treated for promotion of sustainable horticulture practices. The Wullar conservation plan also envisages grazing management and alternate source of energy. On water management part, selective dredging and community based solid waste management has been identified by the authorities. Under the conservation plan, construction of 4 MLD STP has also been targeted in Bandipora. According to the project report prepared by the Wetland International South Asia (WISA), about 45 percent of population living in an around the lake is below poverty line. The WISA report has highlighted issues which include absence of policies and strategies to guide coordinated action within River Jhelum Basin, marginalization of wetland dependent communities, absence of effective institutional mechanism for coordination and implementation and lack of baseline information for planning and decision making. The report suggests that after the successful implementation of the project, the forest cover would be enhanced to 40 percent and there will 70 percent reduction in flooding due to increase in water holding capacity. The Central Government has sanctioned Rs 120 crore for the conservation project for the next four years. A committee headed by Secretary Ministry of Environment and Forests had in October last year examined the Action Plan and recommended a release of Rs 30 crore as first installment for Wullar conservation. The State Government is planning to implement the project through Wullar Development Authority with the Chief Minister as its Chairman. Official sources said a committee headed by the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Abdul Razak Khan, is monitoring the Wullar conservation measures. The objectives of the project, according to officials, includes reduction in soil loss, enhancement of forest cover, reduction of fuel wood harvest, reducing flooding by 70 percent by increasing water holding capacity, water quality improvement and increase in water holding capacity by 54 percent. Official figures reveal that nearly 69072 kanals of the lake have been occupied illegally mainly by various Government departments. The problem is compounded by continuous influx of silt from nearby catchments which has turned a large chunk of the water body into a land mass. “Minister for Forests and Environment, Mian Altaf Ahmad is making tireless efforts to ensure that the project is implemented successfully. A team of experienced and dedicated officers who have executed earlier projects successfully has been assigned the task to execute the project,” sources added.
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