Forests cut in Goa to be afforested in Karnataka, activists question logic
The Goa government had requested Karnataka for making 800 hectares of degraded forest land available for compensatory afforestation in the wake of deforestation required for a railway project.
Goa’s bid to build a green cover in Karnataka to make up for deforestation in Goa due to a railway line project linking two states is being questioned for its logic by environmentalists.
The Goa government had requested Karnataka for making 800 hectares of degraded forest land available for compensatory afforestation in the wake of deforestation required for the double tracking of the South Western Railway line between Vasco da Gama in Goa and Torangallu in Karnataka, since Goa didn’t have the required deforested area.
Karnataka government has responded positively to the request.
“It is to inform your kind self that degraded forest land in Dharwad and Belgaum District of our state is available for the purpose and the Karnataka Forest Department is willing to consider carrying out compensatory afforestation on behalf of the State of Goa as per the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980,” said a letter by state’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Punati Shridhar.
The funding for the afforestation to be carried out in Karnataka will be done by Goa from the corpus of ₹238.16 crore granted by the Central Government for afforestation.
Goa is set to lose around 50 thousand trees and 185 hectares of forest cover in the Western Ghats for the three shared projects with Karnataka including a highway, railway line double tracking and a new power line. The Railway double tracking will itself take around 98 hectares or around half of the total land.
“As per central government norms, we have to plant double the area used for non-forest purposes. Goa being a state with 68% tree cover (forest cover is around 36%), we could not find such land within the state. Hence we approached both Maharashtra and Karnataka and Karnataka has responded positively,” Goa’s Conservator of Forests Santosh Kumar said.
The decision to build forests in the neighbouring state to compensate for forest lost in Goa has fueled resentment within the government and NGO circles with questions being raised on the upkeep of forests in Karnataka, where they are regularly denuded for farming.
“If the damage is being done in Goa, how can it be offset in Karnataka? It doesn’t make sense. There is a lot of degraded forest land in Goa that can be used including barren land and land degraded by mining that needs to be ‘rewilded,’” said Avertino Miranda, an environmental activist.