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Joint Gram Sabha of four panchayats in J&K declares 200 sq km as community forest

By NGO Representative 

A joint Gram Sabha on Community Forest Rights was held on July 29th, 2023. The Panchayat Halqa's of Brenwar, Neego, and Jabbard came together to organize this significant event – a joint Gram Sabha on Community Forest Rights (CFR) under the Forest Rights Act-2006.
It was a remarkable display of unity and collective action in the region. It was evident that the communities of Brenwar, Neego, and Jabbard, along with their counterparts from other Panchayat Halqas, were deeply committed to the cause of conserving their local forests and preserving their natural heritage. The atmosphere during the proceedings was charged with enthusiasm and determination, as the participants recognized the significance of this event in securing their rights to the land they had cherished for generations.
With the resolution designating 200 square units of forest land as a community forest, the local community members felt empowered and elated to have gained ownership and management rights over this precious resource. This sabha reflected the co-existence and belongingness to the forests was embraced with a sense of pride and a strong sense of duty to protect and nurture the forests and all the valuable resources they harbored. The community members understood that this ownership would enable them to make decisions that aligned with their livelihoods, cultural practices, and deep-rooted traditions.
The commitment to conserving the forests, rangelands and mountains, along with the sustainable use of minor forest produce and forest foods, reflected the communities' understanding of the delicate balance that needed to be maintained between human activities and the natural environment. By acknowledging their role as stewards of these lands, the local population demonstrated their genuine concern for promoting biodiversity and mitigating the adverse impacts of deforestation and environmental degradation.
The presence of dignitaries like Mr. Nazir Ahmed Chowdhary, Vice-chairman DDC council Budgam, and Ms. Kulsuma Bano, BDC Chairperson of Suresyar, as the Chief Guest and Guest of Honour, respectively, added prestige to the event and affirmed the significance of the cause being pursued. Sarpanch Jadden Mohammad Aslam Khan and FRC Chairperson Jadden, Sarpanch and FRC Chairperson Ladden, Sarpanch and FRC Chairperson Gogjipathri, Sarpanch and FRC Chairperson Bonen, Sarpanch Shumnag Muqam and FRC Chairperson Shumnag Muqam- Nazir Ahmed Chopan were also present to take the legacy forward.
The involvement of eminent experts like Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool and Dr. Zahid Parwaz Choudhary from the J&K Forest Rights Coalition further lent credibility to the proceedings, ensuring that the Gram Sabha was conducted with the utmost professionalism and expertise.
Sarpanch Shumnag Muqam, Nazir Ahmed Chopan, said alpine meadows like Ieed, Ladar mad, Zand-Kabar, Diskhal, Kundlen, belongs to the Chopan community as per community byelaws and have been using these as a grazing land for over 600 years now. He said the division of pastures is very clear between Gujjars and Chopans and hence everyone should respect it.
Mr. Mohd Ashraf Jahara's adept coordination of the Joint Gram Sabha demonstrated the essential role of committed individuals in driving positive change within the community. As a Senior RTI activist and District President of the J&K Forest Rights Coalition, his efforts played a pivotal part in making the event a resounding success.
The heartfelt congratulations extended by the Forest Rights Coalition (FRC) of Jammu and Kashmir further validated the impact of the community's collaborative efforts. The assurance of continued support for awareness-raising and capacity-building initiatives emphasized that this was not a one-time event, but rather the beginning of a sustained journey towards safeguarding community forests and preserving natural resources.
The coalition's commitment to assisting the local communities in claiming their individual and community forest rights, as well as advocating for the implementation of forest rights across Jammu and Kashmir, showcased the enduring nature of their dedication to environmental conservation. The numerous training workshops conducted on relevant topics illustrated the FRC-J&K's proactive approach in empowering communities with the knowledge and tools to actively participate in safeguarding their environment.
Overall, the joint Gram Sabha on Community Forest Rights exemplified a successful model of community-driven conservation efforts, rooted in the values of sustainability and environmental stewardship. It highlighted the potential for positive change when different stakeholders come together with a shared vision, and it served as an inspiring example for other regions and communities to follow.

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