Heavy grazing pressure on the forest areas has resulted in growth of unpalatable grasses, increased soil erosion and low productivity in Jammu and Kashmir.
In Jammu and Kashmir, forests are integral to the sustainability of primary sectors of agriculture, horticulture, sheep and animal husbandry, particularly in hilly areas. People in these areas rely heavily on the forests for their wood, fodder, food and small timber requirements.
An official document of the Forest Department reveals that the annual fodder requirement of J&K is huge, whereas availability from different sources viz alpine pastures, forest grazing lands, fallow agricultural lands, private lands etc is inadequate thereby leaving a steep gap between supply and demand.
According to the document, the scarcity of fodder results in overgrazing (grazing beyond the carrying capacity) of forest areas.
“Consequently, it produces adverse effects in the form of soil erosion, weed infestation, and ultimately further degradation of forest eco-system,” it says.
Jammu and Kashmir has its forest cover stretching over 23,241 square kilometers, which is 10.46 per cent of its total geographical area of 1,01,387 square kilometers. Official figures reveal that 103705 kanals of forest area is under encroachments in Kashmir.
An official of the Forest Department told KNS that “unmanaged overgrazing” is posing as a major challenge to the forest eco-system.
“To make the matters worse, the animal species who would earlier graze in the low lying areas are shifting to high altitudes. Further, there is no concrete government policy to deal with the excessive grazing.”
A senior official said to reduce the grazing pressure on forest areas, the department is planning to conduct several activities.
“We are planning to promote rotational grazing. Under it, the pastures and grazing areas shall be closed temporarily on rotation basis. The closed areas shall be treated for weed eradication, soil erosion related problems, soil fertility and for enrichment through planting of fodder species,” he said.
“Improvement of highland pastures and grazing lands is essential for enhanced fodder production which ultimately will protect our forest areas against further degradation,” he added.