Srinagar May 16: Panchayat Halqa Mathi-Gawran Anantnag made history on May 15 by organising the first Gram Sabha on Community Forest Rights under the Forest Rights Act 2006. The event witnessed a large turnout of residents who participated in the historical gathering. The event was assisted and facilitated by J&K- Forest Rights Coalition (FRC).
During the Gram Sabha, a detailed resolution was read and passed by the Forest Rights Committee, Panchayat and Gram Sabha members with unanimous approval. The resolution declared 1200 square kilometers of forest land, stretching from Gawran forests to Margon top gali, Simthan to Wardwaan forests as Community Forest.
The resolution also mandated the panchayat to ensure conservation of forests and mountains, as well as the sustainable use of minor forest produce and forest foods. Notably, Mathi-Gawran panchayat is the 2nd panchayat to lead community conservation, community-based tourism and afforestation under the leadership of J&K-FRC and its activists.
The Gram Sabha also resolved that the first beneficiaries local tourism would be residents Mathi-Gawran, Daksum, Gaawran and adjoining Grahm Panchayats of the area. The resolution also stressed the importance of maintaining the carrying capacity of Daksum, Margon & Simthan during tourism seasons and opposed mass and irresponsible tourism. It also prohibited the use of packed food, polythene, liquor and narcotic drugs.
Furthermore, the Panchayat pledged to monitor anti-environmental development in eco-sensitive areas.
The founder of the J&K forest Rights Coalition, Vice_Chairperson Peer Ghulam Mohi-udin, Ashraf Jahra and Convener Zahid Parwaz Choudhary, coordinated the Gram Sabha procedures under the Forest Rights Act 2006. As the local of the area prominent among them Haji Abdul Rashid Khari and others had approached the team of FRC to guide them regarding how to fill Community Forest Rights claim form and procedure to hold Garam Sabha. Moreover, this historical event marks a significant step towards community-led conservation and sustainable tourism in Jammu and Kashmir.
The declaration of 1200 Sq. km of forest land as a community forest during the First Historical Gram Sabah at Mathi-Gawran marks a significant step towards sustainable and community-led forest management. Community forests are forest lands managed and governed by the local communities, who use them for their livelihoods, traditional practices, and cultural activities. This approach not only empowers the communities but also helps in conserving the forest ecosystem, reducing deforestation and promoting biodiversity. The recognition of community forest as a legitimate land-use category is an important development in the realm of forest governance and management, and the move by Mathi-Gawran to declare such a large area as a community forest is commendable. It is hoped that this will serve as an inspiration for other communities and governments to follow suit in promoting community-led forest management and conservation.
Forest rights coalition -J&K (founded by Dr Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, renowned Climate Justice activist and Naturalist) is committed to organise such events accross Jammu and Kashmir, & ladak and also assist Grahm Panchayats & indegenous communities to file indidual claims as well.
FRC-J&K is also actively advocating the implementation of forest rights in J&K .