Forest bureaucracy is in dock with members of the prime minister headed national wildlife board accusing them of getting some projects cleared by concealing facts regarding their impact on ecology.A letter by 11 non-official members of the board to environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan comes after the ministry transferred two Indian Forest Service (IoFS) officials CD Singh and AK Rana for restoring to alleged violation of norms for clearing projects.
The members have highlighted few more cases. Chief Wildlife Warden of Himachal Pradesh got Kol Dam project near Majathal Wildlife Sanctuary in Shimla and Solan districts cleared from the board's standing committee stating that no trees will be cut. "The state government in its reply to Central Empowered Committee had said that 51,262 trees would come under the submergence area," the letter said.
The officials proposed clearance to 240 MW thermal power plant with cement grinding unit and coal washery near Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh but failed to inform the committee about the ministry's regional office reporting gross violations of the Forest Conservation Act by the project proponents.
In another case, proximity of the proposed irrigation project to Ranthambore tiger reserve was not disclosed in the proposal submitted in April, 2011.
The standing committee is the statutory body to examine projects proposed near around 600 protected areas in India.
Members described the committee's decision making process as "flawed" saying it has been turned into a "clearing house" for projects with 59 projects cleared in two hours at April 25 meeting and most of them without much discussion.
"Such practices make mockery of the role of the standing committee," the letter said and added clearing so many projects in such a short span of time can lead to committee decisions being challenged in courts.