Srinagar: Kashmir’s vast forest cover has virtually vanished – chopped down by smugglers, or cleared by land mafias in pursuit of the real estate goldmine that the Valley had become. The massive vandalisation is the collateral damage of a violent conflict.
Now, a group of young volunteers from parts of the Valley that were hit during the stone pelting agitations two summers ago, have launched mission reforestation.
Official records show 13,360 hectares of forest land was vandalised in the state. The young volunteers, 70 boys in total, have already planted 4000 alpine saplings at Dodgpathri in Budgam district to recover lost ground.
“There has been devastation and we want to recover some of it. As we came here as volunteers we found that we have lost so much. This is a small initiative” says Mudasir, a volunteer from down town Srinagar.
The man behind the mission, Abdul Hamid, founded Rahim Greens using profits from his automobile business. His organization is planting 15000 trees every year, across the Valley, with a target of planting at least one lakh by 2015.
“I was pained to see devastation of forests and I thought I should do something for it. I decided to purchase these pine trees from forest department… But it’s not possible without the support of these volunteers” says Mr Hamid.
His decision to engage the youth from one of the Valley’s most volatile areas, downtown Srinagar and Baramulla, is a deliberate one. Many of them have been born and raised with no other experience but turmoil and violence, death and destruction. This, Mr Hamid hopes will give them an alternate view of the world – of nurture and regeneration. And to give them a sense of what Kashmir has lost during the conflict is Zareef Ahmad Zareef , Kashmir’s known poet and environmentalist.
“Once floods subside we assess the damages and see which bridge has been washed away. Since there is some improvement in (security) situation we have shown these boys what the damage has been done and where we have been robbed” says Zareef.