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SRINAGAR, JUNE 19: In yet another big move, Jammu & Kashmir Government on Wednesday ordered the devolution of various development programmes, schemes and activities relating to Social Forestry Department to Panchayati Raj Institutions in pursuance to the provisions contained in the J&K Panchayati Raj Act, 1989 (amended up to October 2018).

According to the order issued by Department of Forest, Environment & Ecology, the Government has directed for the devolution of programmes/schemes and activities specified in item 3 of Schedule I-A relating to Social Forestry to Panchayati Raj Institutions.

The order says that panchayats shall carry afforestation on wasteland, development of social forestry and farm forestry, and disposal of social forestry produce. 

Works like growing trees for cattle feed, firewood and fruits, implementation of farm forestry, establishment of nurseries and their management, planning and implementation of social forestry and farm forestry projects, planting and preservation of trees on the roadside and other public places under control of Halqa Panchayat shall also be done by panchayats, besides Identification of sites for CAMPA/afforestation activities under different schemes and plans.

Constitution of fire protection committees to assist the Forest Department in extinguishing forest fires in coordination with the local people shall be work of panchayats.

Further, the order states that the sites for various afforestation works under all the schemes, wherever feasible/applicable will be identified and proposed in consultation with concerned Halqa Panchayat.

The plans under different afforesation schemes/ sectors will be formulated by the concerned Divisional Forest Officers (SF) in consultation with concerned Village Committees in terms relevant SROs and also in consultation with concerned Halqa Panchayat.

The fencing shall be procured as per the standing norms & will be done through concerned Panchayats wherever `e-tendering’ is not required, the order says.

The order also mentions that the plants shall continue to be provided by the Department. However, digging of pits and planting will be done by the existing regular and non-regular staff of the Department and also through the seasonal labour to be provided by the Panchayats under supervision of concerned Block Officer/Range Officer, followed by monitoring by DFO and Regional Director.

“The labour work from seasonal labourers will be hired exclusively by the concerned Halqa Panchayats on a day-to-day basis for execution of plantation related works, as per the plantation targets,” the order says.

Whereas, the watch and ward of the plantations shall continue to be done by the existing staff of the Department together with concerned Village Forest Committees and concerned Halqa Panchayat.

The monitoring evaluation and audit of all the works will be done as per the prescribed norms and rules, however the Panchayats shall be involved in inspections & checking of the works, the order adds.

Besides, the Sarpanch/Panch (as the case may be) will function as Ex-Officio Chairman of Village Executive Committee instead of selection by Village Committee (General Body).

The order also mentions that maintenance and protection of plantation shall be joint responsibility of the Department, and concerned Village Forest Committee/Panchayat.

“The concerned Panchayats will encourage village people to participate in establishing village wood lots by explaining the benefits to be obtained from community plantation and assist the Department in demarcating areas of wastelands on which plantation is to be done.

“They will also explain the advantages of the afforestation programmes to the people in their respective areas and report their progress regularly to the concerned Divisional Forest Officer (SF),” the order says.

The funds for the aforementioned works (wherever required as per the service), shall be placed at the disposal of the concerned Panchayats by the Department of Social Forestry under relevant schemes/sectors, the order adds.

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