2,200 hectares of forest land diverted in 2017-18

By Times Of India on 25 May 2018
AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat forest department has diverted nearly 2,200 hectares of forest land for purposes other than maintaining forests and supporting wildlife. Some of the land was diverted for laying drinking water pipelines or laying cables, but majority of the land was transferred for Rajkot airport and for industry needs.
The annual report by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change for the year 2017-18 reveals that a total of 2,196 hectare of land was diverted in some 97 instances. The report states that in three cases 9.60 hectares of land was diverted for irrigation canals in Kutch, for water pipelines and for electricity transmission lines.

However, in 94 instances the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has given in-principle approval for transferring 2,186 hectares of forest land for non-forest purposes.

H S Singh, member of the National Board for Wildlife said, “The majority of the land has been transferred for industry and for Rajkot airport in 2017, apart from other smaller drinking water and other projects. The NBWL ensures that equal amount of land is transferred to the forest department.” Singh said that in case of Rajkot airport the land given was grassland. “Even if we get a similar amount of land, it would still mean loss of green cover,” said Singh.

A senior forest officer said that after September 2017, the state government has not sent any further proposal for transfer of land since the NBWL has accepted the proposal of Gujarat demanding that delegation of powers for sanctioning drinking water pipelines falling inside protected areas should be given to the principal chief conservator of forests.

Gujarat had submitted that projects like drinking water supply to the masses cannot be delayed as this is a basic need for sustenance of human life as well as livestock, particularly in water-scarce areas. The NBWL had stated that the authority for laying of drinking water pipelines and optical fibre cables along roads inside national parks and sanctuaries was to be delegated to the State Board for Wildlife.

“The forest land is diverted for various purposes including road-widening, irrigation canals, gas, water pipelines, power transmission lines among others.

According to rule, compensatory plantation is undertaken by the forest department. The department takes up plantation activity of around 35 to 40 thousand hectares annually in forest areas. According to Forest Survey of India's report 2017, forest cover in the state has increased as against that found in the last 2015 FSI survey,” said principal chief conservator of forests, G K Sinha.