The Forests of Jammu & Kashmir || By Mian Javed Hussein || LIVE IMAGE

Jammu & Kashmir is bestowed by the Nature with rich conifer forests and beautiful water resources and is known as the “paradise on earth” because of its scenic beauty, snow clad mountains, valleys, dense forests, meadows, lakes, rivers and streams and a unique topography which represents all the major land forms, i.e; mountains, plateaus, plains, valleys, etc. It is a place of innumerable attraction for the tourists and nature lovers all over the globe. 

The unending varieties of its landscape, the magic of its rich natural resources, its vivid culture and diversity, the beauty of its famous health and adventure resorts, its world-famous traditional hospitality makes J&K a unique tourist destination for national and international visitors.

        Forests play a major role in maintaining the ecological balance , minimizing soil erosion,  providing habitat to wildlife and our rich biodiversity.  J&K is bestowed with rich forests and a  rich biological diversity which form a great heritage and are a valuable treasure as an important sector of economy. People from all walks of life derive multiple benefits from these forests, be it tourism and recreation, perennial water supplies, hydro-power generation, timber, fuel-wood, minor forest produce including medicinal and aromatic plants, etc. 

Other un-quantified indirect benefits worth billions of rupees which are derived through the forest and environmental services are like carbon sequestration, amelioration of climate, soil and water conservation, pollution control, etc.

         All the principal Western Himalayan Conifer & Broad-leaved tree species grow in J&K, with distinct vegetation forms which vary with the change in elevation and aspect. Predominantly, the following broad forest types are met within the UT of J&K:-

i) Sub-Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests: These forests are generally found in the lower Shivalik formation of Jammu region. Common tree species found under this category are Acacia catechu, Dalbergia sissoo, Albezia species, Eucalyptus, etc.

II) Sub-Tropical Pine Forests:  These forests occur in upper Shivalik formation and lower Himalayas. Dominant species are Pinus roxburghii (Chir Pine), Dalbergia sissoo, etc.

iii) Himalayan Moist Temperate Forests:  This type of forests are found in the Chenab Valley of Jammu region. Common species found are Cedrus deodara (Deodar), Pinus wallichiana (Blue Pine), Abies pindrow (Fir), Picea smithiana (Spruce), Juglans regia (Walnut), etc.

iv) Himalayan Dry Temperate Forests:  This type of forest is found in Kashmir valley and the common principal species found are Cedrus deodara (Deodar), Pinus wallichiana (Blue Pine), Abies pindrow (Fir), Picea smithiana (Spruce), Taxus baccata (Himalayan Yew), Acer (Himalayan Maple), Betula utilis (Birch), Rhododendron species, Parrotiopsis jacquemontiana, Juglans regia (Walnut), Salix and Poplar species, etc.

v) Alpine & Sub-Alpine Forests/Scrub: These forests occur well above the main temperate zones. Common species found in this zone are Abies pindrow (Fir), Picea smithiana (Spruce) Juniperus macropoda, Betula utilis (Birch), Rhododendron, high altitude Salix species, a vast variety of alpine and sub-alpine ground flora comprised of grasses, wild flowers, medicinal and aromatic plants.

  During a special survey carried out in 2018-19, the main forest types of the UTs of J&K and Ladakh have been re-grouped into 48- forest types. The forests of J&K support a very rich floral biodiversity and are home to more than 572 species of medicinal and aromatic plants having huge business value.

   Conservation of natural resources has increasingly attracted global focus in recent years. Depleting forest wealth and biodiversity is a serious challenge the world over which is facing multiple threats on account of the Climate Change & Global Warming. Its adverse impact has been a subject of debate and concern in national and international forums leading to numerous covenants which have led to regulations and prohibitions to arrest indiscriminate exploitation of the forests and biodiversity.

 The floral and faunal diversity of J&K is rich and diverse. It is a valuable treasure for the UT for sustaining economy on sustainable basis. The forests and the rich biodiversity play an important role in preserving the fragile ecosystem of J&K and serve as catchments for important Himalayan rivers. Past few decades have witnessed exponential growth in human and livestock population which imparts an adverse pressure on the natural resources of the UT. Rapid industrialization, widespread urban and rural infra-structure development, etc add up to the adverse impact on our environment and ecology.

 Degradation of lakes and wetlands, streams, etc too has taken a heavy toll of these natural resources which are pivotal for a healthy ecological balance and related essential economical parameters, viz; tourism, horticulture, agriculture and fisheries in J&K.         

Mian Javed Hussein 
IFS (retd)
(Feedback at: mianjavedifs@gmail.com)

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