Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday said a well planned strategy was required to boost tourism without compromising with the conservation of environment.

“Various modules are available to focus simultaneously on both these important areas”, Mr. Omar said interacting with a group of 31 India Forest Service (IFS) Probationers here.

Replying to the IFS Probationers questions on the development of tourism and conservation of environment, the Chief Minister said, the aggressive marketing of tourism by Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh has badly affected the aspect of environment there.

“A balanced approach has to be put in place to develop and market tourism without compromising on the issue of environment importance”, he said, adding, the challenge in Jammu and Kashmir is in the area of creating a befitting infrastructure for tourists.

“We have underlined strict adherence to environment preservation and protection pre-requisite for infrastructure development in the tourist areas. The monitoring by courts has also narrowed down the chances of environment degradation due to infrastructure development”, he said.

The Chief Minister said the constructions at tourist places in the past have been haphazard and there is now a ban on any construction in tourist places like Pahalgam.

The group of IFS Probationers, first in the last 30 years, are on a study tour of the State to get appraisal of forest management measures and strategies in place to conserve forest wealth and the environment.

Replying to another question, Mr. Omar said timber smuggling during the time of militancy has damaged the forest wealth of the State.

“Generation of a forest takes decades. We have concentrated on rejuvenation of the depleted forests under CAMPA and under various State and Centrally sponsored schemes”, the Chief Minister said.

Stating stringent laws were in force to curb smuggling of timber and illegal felling of trees, Mr. Omar said, “The Forest Department is strictly enforcing these laws”.

The Chief Minister said the state Forest Department has identified pastures for grazing of cattle of migratory population.

“Measures are in place to maintain these pastures,” he said adding that cattle grazing in the mountains is being allowed in a well-planned and disciplined manner.

In reply to a question about manufacturing of bats and supply of timber, Mr. Omar said, the timber industry and afforestation can thrive side-by-side under a balanced approach towards both.

“Using of willow for manufacture of bats and supply of timber for construction purposes should keep pace with the afforestation and conservation process”, he said, adding, the State government is allowing import of timber to relieve the pressure on the local plantation.

On the conservation of Dal lake and rehabilitation of Dal dwellers, the Chief Minister said a comprehensive plan has been put in place to address both the issues.

He said the aspect of dependence of Dal dwellers on the lake is being taken care of in the overall rehabilitation policy for these families.

Mr. Omar said reaching out to the people and making them feel that you are one among them creates a lasting impression in society.

“There are scores of such examples of officers who served in the State in various capacities and imprinted praiseworthy and lasting impression in the minds of people for the sincere service they rendered”, he said and asked the probationers to make this approach the standard of service delivery.