Grow trees for greening the catchments

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Prof. (Dr.) R.D. Gupta

As many of the catchments of streams and rivers viz, the Devak, the Ujh; Basantar and Manwar and tributaries of the river Tawi and Chenab, are totally deforested. Heavy deforestation of the catchments of these rivers has brought about a change in climate and bare slopes of the sub-mountains in the catchments. Bare catchments have not only resulted in the reduction of water of these rivers / streams but also depleted fresh water resources like springs/baulies and lakes. Even a little rainfall in catchments causes in swelling of the rivers and silting up of their bed owing to heavy and rapid erosion of catchment areas. The whole of the area, therefore, calls for catchments treatment.
Among the various catchment treatments, tree planting and planting of grasses are preferred. It is because forest trees and grass cover play a significant role not only in checking soil erosion/runoff losses but also maintain balance in physical landscape through the regeneration of degraded / eroded lands. While planting the trees their local species should be given priority to grow. Such trees already stand mentioned in the sub-heading of Afforestation or Greening the area by plantation. Now a days if our forests are in peril so are the grasslands. Both men and animals contribute their destruction. A survey conducted about 50 years ago, classified 80 percent of country’s grasslands as “very poor” in forage production. The grazing areas are shrinking and deteriorating due to depletion of the edible grasses for the livestock. In certain pockets of Kandi belt of Jammu, grasslands already become limited and live stock have to depend upon the vegetation of forest species and bushes. Goats have become popular because they eat both shoots and roots which means further degradation of the grasslands. In light of the above, the grasslands require to be ameliorated by way of planting more local grasses like Khabbal or Dub(Drub) grass (Cynodondactylon) which is a perennial grass and grows throughout the year. Its growth is more luxuriant during the Kharif season, particularly in monsoon period. This grass is a very popular for grasslands/grass plots. It is also a very useful fodder particularly formilch cattle and horses. Swank grass (Fanicumcolonus), Dilla or Moth grass (Cyperusrotundus) and Chhimder grass (Elusineflegellifera) are the other grass species which can be grown as fodder for the Kandi belt of Jammu.
Areas having steep topography require a well planned integrated and rational land use in forestry / agro-forestry horticulture and agriculture. Hill tops and steep slopes must be placed permanently under forest species. Planting of forest trees liketali (Dalbergiasisso), kikar (Acacia nilotica), Chir Pine (Pinusroxburghii) and Buffel Grass (Cenchrusciliaris) at higher slope (>25%) have found very suitable in checking soil erosion and conserving water in comparison to similar sloppy areas where indiscriminate felling of trees and cultivation for growing hill millets with age old practice and the problem of soil erosion has been aggravated. A good soil binder Sanatta (Dodonae viscose) has been found very beneficial in conserving soil moisture and controlling soil erosion.
(The author is former Associate Dean-cum Chief Scientist KVK, SKUAST-J).