Monsoon Session: In the past five years 90001.15 hectares of forest land in the country has been approved for non-forest use
In response to questions raised in the Upper House, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change informed that 90,001.15 hectares of forest land has been diverted for non-forest use in the last five years. Almost 62% of compensatory afforestation funds remained unutilised.
गाँव कनेक्शन 8 Aug 2023 12:40 PM GMT
A total of 90001.15 hectares of forest land has been approved for non-forest use between the time period of April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2023, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change informed Rajya Sabha on July 27 during the ongoing monsoon session.
The maximum diversion of forest land of 19,730.36 hectares(ha) has been approved in Madhya Pradesh — which forms 21.9 per cent of the total forest land diverted for development projects in the last five years, followed by Odisha with 13304.79 ha of diverted forest land — making for 14.8 per cent of total diverted land, Arunachal Pradesh with 7448.34 ha and Gujarat with 8064.76 ha of forest land approved for non-forest purposes. The north-eastern states collectively have 11114.64 hectares of forest land approved for diversion in the last five years.
The proposals for diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes are considered under the provisions of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 on case to case basis as per the Rules and Guidelines made thereunder, the ministry responded.
Choubey’s response was recorded against a question by MP Vivek K Tankha on the percentage of natural vegetation diverted for development projects in the past five years; and the details of compensatory afforestation which have been undertaken in the last five years by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), Border Road Organization (BRO) and state public works departments (PWDs), region-wise details thereof.
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The percentage of vegetation cover lost was not provided in the response. Regarding the details on compensatory afforestation, the ministry said that it is “carried out by the state forest departments and not by the user agencies such as NHAI, BRO and State PWDs. Further, land is a state subject and the user agency wise record of compensatory afforestation carried out in the field is not maintained at the level of the ministry.”
On August 2, a bill to amend the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, was passed by the Upper House after clearing the Lok Sabha test on July 26. The 1980 Act was legislated to regulate the diversion of forests for construction and mining. However, the amendments exempt land near the country's border from conservation laws. It also exempts forest land along rail lines and public roads, land for strategic linear projects, and land for defence-related projects from the provisions of the Act.
In response to another question, the ministry informed that 9.64 lakh trees are to be felled in forest areas earmarked for development in the Great Nicobar Project.
“Since the scope of plantation in Andaman and Nicobar Islands is very limited, therefore, the compensatory afforestation in the arid landscape and in the vicinity of the urban areas would provide greater ecological value. The Government of Haryana has agreed to provide an area of 261.5 square kilometres for compensatory afforestation,” Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change responded.
For a separate question raised on July 27, the ministry informed that out of 51768.75 crores of CAMPA [Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority] funds transferred by the Union government to the states between 2019-2023, 19746.94 crores have been utilised in the same time period — 61.85 per cent of these funds have remained unutilised.