Forest land diversion: Setback to India’s goal of increasing green cover - The Tribune India

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Forest land diversion

Setback to India’s goal of increasing green cover

Forest land diversion

Photo for representational purpose only. - File photo



THE Environment Ministry has informed the Rajya Sabha that 90,000 hectares of forest land was diverted for non-forestry purposes — mainly irrigation, mining, road construction and defence projects — in the past five years. This is a setback to India’s goal of substantially increasing its forest cover by 2030. Notably, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Uttarakhand figure among the top states in the diversion of forest land. During this period, prior approval of this ministry was needed for the purpose under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. Environmentalists have raised concerns over the amended Act of July 2023, alleging that it has diluted the 1980 law.

The 1980 Act mandates that in case forest land is diverted, afforestation must be done on an equivalent area of non-forest land to compensate for the loss of the natural ecosystem of the original forest. It is here that the problem arises, for the enforcement of the compensatory afforestation clause has been far from satisfactory. One of the challenges in this is that the land on which saplings are planted is barren, leading to their very low survival rate. Also, funds amounting to crores of rupees, released for the development of compensatory forests, are lying unutilised with state governments. Deforestation irreparably impacts the communities that are dependent upon forests. Most significantly, since it takes years for a forest to develop, the compensation remains inadequate. Effectively, forest land diversion is tantamount to forest depletion.

Take the case of Punjab. The 2021 assessment shows a decline of 2 sq km in the state’s forest cover in just two years since the previous exercise of 2019. While forest land is under immense stress due to the pressing need for development, the authorities must brainstorm to find sustainable means of achieving infrastructural growth. 

#Environment #Rajya Sabha


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