Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi | Published: June 14, 2020 1:47:09 am
According to the study, 54 per cent of forest land recommended for diversion falls under Moderately Dense Forest and 4 per cent falls under Very Dense Forest. (Representational Image)
A survey conducted by an environmental law firm has found a steady decline in recommendations for the diversion of forest land for various projects over the past three years.
Forest land is usually recommended for diversion by state governments for the development of various infrastructure projects or mining, and then given a final approval by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) after having received clearance from the Ministry’s Forest Advisory Committee or the ten Regional Empowered Committees.
According to the study carried out by the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment as a part of a series looking at the clearances made by the MoEF, which was released in March, a total of 27,801.07 hectares of forest land was recommended for diversion for non-forestry uses such as mining, roads, railways, hydel, infrastructure etc, between January and December 2017. The area approved dropped to 21,781.30 hectares in 2018 and was as low as 13,656.60 hectares in 2019.
State-wise statistics reveal that out of 24 states that had given recommendations in 2019, 10 states accounted for 82.49% of total forest land recommended for diversion for non-forestry purposes in 2019, amounting to the diversion of 11,265.382 hectares of forest land.
The highest number of proposals came from Odisha (1697.75 hectares), followed by Jharkhand (1647.41 hectares) and Madhya Pradesh (1626.8 hectares). The least amount of forest diversion last year was in Meghalaya, with just over six hectares having been diverted.
IG (Forests) A K Mohanty said, “The number of recommendations has reduced because of ecological concerns. There are a number of filters that a proposal has to go through before a recommendation for forest diversion is given. We look at things like the density of the forest, for instance, and if there can be an alternate site. If indeed the forest diversion is required, we look at mitigation measures.”
But environmental lawyer and Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) founder Ritwick Dutta said while the number of recommendations has indeed reduced, the actual rate of rejection of such proposals is a mere 2.36 per cent.
“Barring Plantation Forests, 58 per cent of forest land recommended for diversion falls under moderately dense and very dense forest which has been a major concern from an environmental angle. One of the reasons why this is done is because human habitation is less if not nil in very dense forest and therefore you don’t have the cost of either rehabilitation, or acquisition of the land,” Dutta said.
According to the study, 54 per cent of forest land recommended for diversion falls under Moderately Dense Forest and 4 per cent falls under Very Dense Forest.
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