Centre rejected just 7% of forest diversion proposals in 2016
Punjab received the most proposals, followed by Haryana. In 18 out of 26 states where forest diversion proposals were filed, none of the proposals were turned down. The largest number of clearances were denied for projects in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.environment Updated: Jul 24, 2017 11:00 IST
The environment ministry rejected only 50 of 711 of forest diversion proposals it received in 2016, which is roughly 7% of the proposals received.
Between October 1980 and July 2016, India diverted 900,000 hectares of forest land for non-forest purposes.
Though India’s forest area increased between 2013 and 2015, when forest surveys were conducted, the growth is mostly in open forests not in the mid dense and very dense forests, which lost 2511 sq kms in that period. New plantations are not the same thing as retaining old forests, experts say, they store carbon, form part of larger ecosystems that cannot be replicated by compensatory afforestation.
Forest areas are mostly diverted for mining purposes, for defence establishments, hydel projects and infrastructure projects.
The largest number of proposals to divert forest lands came from Punjab (122) and Haryana (110). showed data tabled by the ministry in the monsoon session shows. None of these were rejected, returned or withdrawn.
Unsurprisingly, Punjab has lost the largest portion of its forest area to diversions (20.5 %) between 1980 and July 2016, followed by Haryana (3.80%). In 18 out of 26 states where forest diversion proposals were filed, none of the proposals were turned down.
The largest number of clearances were denied for projects in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. In Gujarat , the ministry shot down 20 out of 27 proposals.
An online portal was launched primarily to help project developers keep track of the status of their clearances. There is an umbrella approval for diversion of forest land up to 5 hectares for public utility projects under the Modi government. A general approval was granted for less one hectare.
This may partly explain why the number of proposals for diversion of forests have reduced from 2,218 in 2015 to 711 in 2016. In 2015, 6% of proposals were rejected compared to around 10% the year earlier.
The Environment ministry is also considering reducing the time stipulated to grant forest clearances, which is currently done within 180 days.