8 July 2015
JAMMU, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In April, scores of hillside homes in Fraswad and Shalnand villages in Jammu and Kashmir collapsed in a landslide amid heavy rains. Eighteen people died.
Not long ago, those same sloping hills had been covered in forest. But illegal tree harvesting by timber smugglers denuded the area, making it ripe for conversion to homes, local people say.
Despite substantial spending to protect its once-thick forests, Jammu and Kashmir is fast losing them to urban expansion, corruption, fires and lack of planning.
The result, experts say, is a rise in soil erosion, landslides and floods that is threatening lives and homes.
"There is a close correlation between floods and deforestation; one leads to another,” said S.K. Gupta, the former head of the forestry department at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology Jammu.