Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Punjab and Maharashtra alone are responsible for 57% diversion of forest land since 1980
New Delhi: Mining, irrigation and hydel projects are the top three sectors for which forest land has been diverted in India since 1980, when the Forest Conservation Act (FC Act) came into being, according to data from the Union environment ministry.
Together these three sectors account for at least one-third of the nearly 900,000-hectare forest area that has been diverted. In India, forest land can be diverted for non-forestry purposes, as per the provisions of the FC Act.
According to data from the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC), a total of 897,698.40 hectares of forest area has been diverted for non-forestry purposes like mining, power projects, road and other industrial projects between October 1980 and July 2016.
Among all the sectors, mining (132,464 hectares), irrigation (106,509 hectares) and hydel projects (86,620 hectares) alone contribute for nearly 36% (325,594 hectares) of the forest land diverted.
If forests diverted for defence purposes (43,492 hectares) and road sector (43,590) are added to the top three sectors, then they together account for nearly 46% (412,676 hectares) of the total forest area diverted.
Among the states, Madhya Pradesh topped the list, with a total of 245,978 hectares of forest area diverted. Chhattisgarh was second (84,475 hectares), followed by Gujarat (63,964 hectares), Punjab (63,371 hectares) and Maharashtra (60,001 hectares). The five states together account for over 57% (517,789 hectares) of total forest land diverted since 1980.
In reply to a query in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, Union environment minister Anil Madhav Dave maintained that the diversion of forest area has not caused any ecological imbalance.
“The forest land diverted has not caused ecological imbalance. Since the enactment of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, the forest land diverted for non-forest use including mining purposes is on average approximately 25,000 hectares per year," said Dave.
But he conceded that non-forest activities, including mining, which is the single biggest reason for the diversion of forest land, invariably have an impact on environment and ecological balance".
“Deforestation for mining can lead to soil erosion, and water pollution, impact flora and fauna," he explained.
The environment minister further stated that mitigative measures are mandated with every clearance granted like raising of compensatory afforestation, minimum tree felling, arrangement of alternate fuels, implementation of wildlife conservation plan (wherever required), phased reclamation of mined out area and demarcation of boundary of mining lease, among others.
“Further, the regular monitoring of forest areas, after approval by the Central government for carrying out mining activities, is conducted by the state governments and regional office of the (environment) ministry to ensure that no violations occur and conditions mandated in the approval are complied with," Dave explained.
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