The Jammu and Kashmir Forest Department Sunday observed the ‘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 and Kashmir.

An official spokesman in a statement issued here said that the 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 Mohit Gera, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and HoFF. Also present on the occasion were Neelu Gera, PCCF and Chairperson Pollution Control Committee, and T Rabi Kumar, APCCF Kashmir.

They laid wreaths at 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, Government of India had declared the 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 the protection of the 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 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 the 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 of NGO was also felicitated for his dedicated efforts in afforestation programmes of the 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, Gera PCCF and 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 the protection of forests and their future role given increasing pressures – urbanization, development, rise in population, and the changing climate.

He informed that forests are going to play a central role in the future towards water security, food security, energy security as well as health and wellness, besides providing ecological security to the fragile mountainous region of Jammu and Kashmir. This calls for an increasing role of the Forest Department and its officers, especially the frontline staff.

Gera appreciated the efforts of Forest Officers and frontline staff in the 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 organising the National Forest Martyrs Day were also appreciated.