NEW DELHI: To minimise the delay in granting clearance to forest diversion proposals for infrastructure projects, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has issued an advisory to all the states asking them to set up a land bank of degraded, non-degraded and non-forest land so that projects are not held up on account of the search for non-forest land to carry out compensatory afforestation.
“All the states should prepare land bank for purpose of creation of compensatory afforestation in lieu on forest land to be diverted for non-forest work which will help to minimise delay in clearance of forest diversion proposal,” said the advisory.
According to ministry officials, many projects unnecessarily get delayed since the states are not able to find non-forest land for carrying out compensatory afforestation, which is a pre-condition for granting forest clearance to any infrastructure project that requires deforestation.
The industries deposit money with the Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) under the MoEF for plantation for transferring forest land for non-forest purposes and the money is then allotted to state forest departments to carry out compensatory afforestation.
The MoEF has also relaxed norms by reducing the limit of forest cover in stateS from 50 per cent to 33 per cent for carrying out compensatory afforestation on degraded forest land.
“As per law, 50 per cent compensatory afforestation has to be done in non-forest land and states having more than 50 per cent forest cover are allowed to do afforestation on degraded forest land as they face problem to find non-forest land. Now this limit has been reduced to 33 per cent, which means states having forest cover above 33 per cent can also carry out afforestation on degraded forest in place of non-forest land,” the official said, adding, several projects have been delayed for long due to the search for non-forest land in states.
The ministry is also working on GIS-based decision support system to facilitate informed, speedy and transparent decision on forest clearance applications.
“The Forest Survey of India has been asked to prepare a forest cover map, type, landscape and other parameters. Any information related to any forest block can be found using the decision support system and this will expedite the decision-making process as it will remove the time consumed in field surveys,” the official added.
About 21 per cent of the country’s geographical area is under forest cover, and every year on an average 35,000 hectares of forest land are diverted for non-forest purpose for construction of dams, mining, roads and other infrastructure projects. Some 11,89,294 hectares of forest land have been converted for use in non-forestry purposes after giving approvals to 23,511 proposals since 1980. Of these, maximum approvals were given to Madhya Pradesh followed by Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra.