The promise of the Narendra Modi government to declare minimalist inviolate (no-mining) green areas to protect pristine forests will not happen soon. Reason: the government is struggling to get information on forest areas that are rich water source for rivers and water-bodies.
Almost three years after deciding to declare in-violate areas after scrapping no-go areas for mining projects in forests, the environment ministry has now asked the national water reservoir monitoring body, the Central Water Commission, to detail forests that give birth to water bodies and rivers.
This comes after the Forest Survey of India (FSI) expressed its inability to enlist forests on their hydrological value. A ministry official said that they have no knocked at the doors of the commission to seek information.
The forest survey was expected to outline the inviolate or no mining zones in forests on basis of six parameters decided by the environment ministry committee.
The Dehradun based organization demarcated no mining areas in the forests for most parameters except for hydrological value, which has further delayed declaration of inviolate areas.
The committee constituted by Cabinet Secretary has indicated six measurable parameters for identification of inviolate areas – forest type, biological richness, wildlife value, forest cover, landscape integrity and hydrological value. All parameters had to be scored on a 0-100 scale and those forests with score of more than 90 on all parameters were to be declared as no mining zones.
As the ministry does not have scientific inputs for all six parameters, an official said declaring inviolate areas without the hydrological value of Indian forests will be done once the water commission provides relevant information.
When HT contacted the water commission, a senior official said the information sought by environment ministry was not readily available. “As the ministry wants hydrological value on a GIS (geographic information system) map, generating such information will take time,” a commission official said.
Hope of quick notification of inviolate area had generated when Environment minister Prakash Javadekar recently said that the government was examining the forest survey’s report on inviolate areas and the decision on it will be taken soon.
Director General of Forest SS Garbayal this week added that declaring inviolate areas was a complex issue.
An official gave another reason for the government not been keen to declare inviolate areas.
“We don’t want to repeat the mistakes committed when go-no go area was declared. We will like to take everybody on board before notifying inviolate areas,” an official said, when asked about the timeframe within which the inviolate areas would be declared. No go area was opposed by all economic ministries resulting in its scrapping.
And till the government takes a final call on the issue the ministry would continue to allow projects in finest Indian forest such as Andamans' moist deciduous forest, Cachar tropical evergreen forest, moist bamboo brakes that would have been in no mining zones as per the committee’s parameters on inviolate forest areas.