The Jammu and Kashmir Forest Department today observed National Forest Martyrs Day to pay homage to the brave Forest Officers and frontline staff who laid down their lives while protecting the forest wealth in Jammu & Kashmir.
Forest Martyrs Memorial, Shankaracharya Hills, Srinagar, erected in memory of Forest Martyrs of J&K, was dedicated by the frontline forest staff to the J&K Forest Department in presence of Dr. Mohit Gera, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests & HoFF. Also present on the occasion were Dr. Neelu Gera, PCCF & Chairperson Pollution Control Committee and T. Rabi Kumar, APCCF Kashmir.
They laid wreaths at the Forester’s Memorial to pay tributes to martyrs on this day. Besides, senior forest officers, regional heads of various allied Departments and frontline staff also offered floral tributes and prayers to the martyrs to mark their respects.
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India had declared 11th of September as National Forest Martyrs Day in the year 2013 in recognition of the infamous Khejarli Massacre of 1730.
In J&K, around 100 forest officers/officials have laid their lives for protection of rich forest wealth of the Union Territory and in recognition of their supreme sacrifice, the Forest Department has erected four Foresters Memorials recently. Out of the four, two are located in Jammu and in Kashmir, two memorials have been erected in Shankaracharya Hills and Kashmir Forest Training School, Chitternar. National Forest Martyrs Day was also observed in other Forester’s Memorials.
After paying homage, a brief function was held at Forest Headquarters Sheikhbagh, Srinagar for distribution of Departmental Awards to 17 frontline Forest Officers and staff for outstanding performance in the field of ‘Afforestation/ Forest Protection/ Training and Capacity Building/ Demarcation for the year 2021-22’.
On the occasion Nazir Benazir, Chairman NGO was also felicitated for his dedicated efforts in afforestation programmes of Forest Department, including Green J&K Drives. 75 students (Bal Brigade) were also felicitated with certificates for their involvement in afforestation activities and supporting the establishment of Bal Van in Srinagar.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Gera PCCF & HoFF thanked the UT Administration for all the support. He remembered the Forest Martyrs and exhorted upon the officers to evolve with the emerging challenges faced by the Department. He spoke in detail about the need for protection of forests and their future role in view of increasing pressures, viz. urbanization, development and rise in population and the changing climate.
He informed that forests are going to play a central role in future towards water security, food security, energy security as well health and wellness, besides providing ecological security to the fragile mountainous region of Jammu & Kashmir. This calls for an increasing role of the Forest Department and its officers, especially the frontline staff.
Dr Gera appreciated the efforts of Forest Officers and frontline staff in protection of forests and for implementation of recent flagship initiatives of the Government, particularly “Green J&K Drive”, rejuvenation of Amrit Sarovars, Ecotourism, Industry friendly initiatives and online services for ease of doing business.
The efforts made by Zubair Ahmad Shah, Conservator of Forests, Srinagar Circle, Abid Nazir, DFO Urban Forestry Srinagar and others in successfully organizing the National Forest Martyrs Day were also appreciated.