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India losing 135 hectares forest daily: RTI
Source: Times of India, Date: June , 2013
BANGALORE: Ever wondered why the country is fast losing its
forest cover? The simple answer is that large tracts of forest land are
being handed over to public and private agencies in the name of development
Digest this: According to recent data acquired through RTI from the ministry
of environment and forests by a group of environmentalists, the extent of
forest land being diverted across the country on an average stands at 135
hectares (around 333 acres) per day. Such diversions are done on various
pretexts, say for coal mines, thermal power plants, industrial or river valley
Members of the Environment Impact Assessment Resources and Response Centre
(eRc), instrumental in compiling the data, said the figure in reality is much
higher as their analysis pertains only to projects which have sought more than
40 hectares of area.
Ritwik Dutta, an advocate with Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment
(LIFE) and closely associated with eRc, said Karnataka is one of the states
that has been diverting forest land. "Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Arunachal
Pradesh and Jharkhand are some of the other states which are into
largescale diversions. We are compiling state-specific data on the extent of
land being diverted," he added.
Ritwik said more awareness is needed among the people to challenge such
projects, and they should appeal before the National
Green Tribunal (NGT) against diversions.
Vagholikar of Kalpavriksh, an environmental action group, said despite the
country losing existing forest cover, the central government every year
releases figures on increase in green cover. "The trick is that the forest
department manages to add compensatory afforestation programmes to the total
forest cover. In reality, such forest cover is virtually non-existent; nobody
is sure whether such programmes will be implemented in future or not," he
Diversion of forest land for other purposes has come to the fore in Challakere
taluk, Chitradurga district. Hundreds of hectares of Amrit Mahal kaval land,
categorized as forest land according to Rule 33 of the Karnataka Forest Rules
1969, have been allegedly diverted to IISc, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Isro
and DRDO, which are planning to build sensitive projects here. The matter is
currently in the court and also before the National Green Tribunal.
The Amrit Mahal kaval land, which is actually grazing land reserved for a
special cattle breed, is treated as a forest in Challakere, a black buck
sanctuary in Chikmagalur and reserve forest in Hassan.
The rapacious encroachment of green cover, at 333 acres a day, to non-forest
activity shows the country is sitting on an ecological time bomb. That the
figures have come from the ministry of environment and forests brings to rest
claims that the depletion figures are exaggerated. It also shows the laws
framed to protect our green reserves lack teeth. The alarming deforestation
rate should act as a wakeup call to all concerned. Forests are carbon
warehouses that offset greenhouse emissions. Their depletion impacts the
climate, biodiversity and water resources, among others. Development at the
cost of environment only leads to greater pitfalls.
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