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Land given only for key projects: state forest department

The state forest department said that proposals are cleared only after studying all impacts on environment and wildlife.

mumbai Updated: Jan 01, 2018 16:46 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
mumbai news,forest land,forest department
Wildlife experts said forests cannot be recreated or planted by humans, and should not be destroyed or diverted. (HT File)

The state forest department officials said, protection of wildlife is their primary objective and forest land has been given for other use only when necessary.

“Linear projects, which are a priority to the government, related to electricity, road and railway development are being recommended by us. Wherever there is a threat to wildlife areas, we have not and will not recommend those,” said Virendra Tiwari, chief conservator of forest (Mantralaya), state forest department. He said that state’s forests are being protected.

“We ensure proposals are cleared only after studying all impacts on environment and wildlife,” he added.

The Akola-Khandwa railway line passing through the heart of the Melghat Tiger Reserve received clearance from the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) earlier this year.

“We have not cleared the proposal to convert the railway line from metre gauge to broad gauge so far, even though the state wildlife board has asked us to. There is a huge tiger population in the area, and it is the central government’s prerogative to take a call on the same,” he said.

The startling increasing rate of habitat encroachment has resulted in the death of 665 wild animals over the last five years.

“Seven underpasses have been made along the eastern borders of the Pench Tiger Reserve to protect the wildlife, for the construction of National Highway 7, which is being monitored by the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court as well,” said Tiwari.

The forest department plans to increase the state’s green cover after it planted 3 crore saplings in 2016, 5 crore in 2017, and expects to plant 18 crore in 2018 and take the total for four years to 50 crore plantations by 2019.

Environmentalists said that the state has only 21% of its total geographical area under forest cover as against the planning commission’s mandate of 33%.

“The state government is damaging the water security of the state by diverting forest land. It will seriously impact the species count and their habitat if such a scenario continues,” said Stalin D, director, NGO Vanashakti.

“Under the garbs of tree plantation, the government is fooling citizens by telling them there will be an increase in green cover. Sapling plantations do not mean an increase in forest cover.”

Wildlife experts said forests cannot be recreated or planted by humans, and should not be destroyed or diverted.

“While development is inevitable, we need to ensure that good quality forests, grasslands, and wetlands are not compromised in the name of growth,” said Anish Andheria, president, Wildlife Conservation Trust.

First Published: Jan 01, 2018 16:46 IST