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Issue 44
, 2013
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India losing 135 hectares forest daily: RTI

Toxics Link
Source: Times of India, Date: , 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 projects.

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 projects.

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.

Neeraj 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 added.

Challakere case

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.