Forests

India continues to lose forest land to non-forestry projects

Central environment ministry reports diversion of 11,467 hectares forest land in 2019 (up to first week of November) 

 
By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Tuesday 09 June 2020
The largest area of forest land was diverted for irrigation and mining projects. Photo: Agnimirh Basu / CSE
The largest area of forest land was diverted for irrigation and mining projects. Photo: Agnimirh Basu / CSE The largest area of forest land was diverted for irrigation and mining projects. Photo: Agnimirh Basu / CSE

The diversion of forest land for other purposes continued throughout India. A total 11,467.83 hectares (114.68 square kilometre) forest lands were diverted in 22 states between January 1 and November 6, 2019, the Union government admitted.

This diversion was for 932 non-forestry projects under the Forest (Conservation) Act (FCA), 1980, according to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Annual Report 2019-20 (published on the ministry website on June 8, 2020). 

More than a third of the diversion (4,514 ha) was for 14 projects was in Odisha, followed by Telangana — 2,055 ha for 11 projects — and Jharkhand (869.99 ha for 11 projects). 

The most number of projects — 251 — were in Haryana, which led to the diversion of 519.53 ha. Madhya Pradesh diverted 795.36 ha for 220 projects. 

State  Number of Projects  Total Forest Land approved for diversion (in ha)
Andhra Pradesh 3 37.82
Bihar  28 453.43
Chhattisgarh  1 207.99
Goa  1 0.93
Gujarat  99 114.01
Haryana  251 519.53
Himachal Pradesh  52 434.36
Jharkhand  11 869.99
Karnataka  11 162.61
Kerala 2 0.26
Madhya Pradesh  220 795.36
Maharashtra  2 151.81
Mizoram  1 23.69
Odisha  14 4514.00
Punjab  123 411.07
Rajasthan  27 370.34
Tamil Nadu 6 18.45
Telangana  11 2055.05
Tripura  2 1.80
Uttar Pradesh  1 63.27
Uttarakhand  64 159.74
West Bengal  2 102.33
TOTAL 932 11467.83

The annual report also gave the category-wise details of the divisions. The largest area of forest land was diverted for irrigation and mining projects.

Twenty-four irrigation projects led to the diversion of 4,287.50 ha, while 22 mining projects led to the diversion of 3,846.09 ha of forest land. Other than this, 227 road construction projects also led to the diversion of 1,487.82.

Guidelines had been issued for encouraging voluntary relocation of villages from the core areas of national parks / wildlife sanctuaries / tiger reserves to forest fringe areas, the report said.

Wherever this happened, the legal status of the new area could be changed to ‘non-forest land’ under FCA. However, no rehabilitation project was undertaken in any of the states that would have required diversion of forest land last year. 

There was no conversion of forest villages to revenue villages in 2019, as stipulated under the provisions of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Forest villages were villages set up by the British Indian government to settle workers inside forests and procure resources like timber more efficiently. There are around 2,500 forest villages across the country.  

Category  Number of cases  Total Land Diverted (Ha.)
Approach Access 147 5.93
Borehole Prospecting 0 0
Canal 1 0
Defence 0 0
Dispensary/Hospital 1 40.51
Drinking Water  31 158.60
Encroachments 0 0
Forest Village Conversion 0 0
Hydel 9 167.96
Industry 5 29.03
Irrigation 24 4287.50
Mining 22 3846.09
Optical Fibre Cable 126 74.12
Others 244 314.77
Pipeline 19 6.85
Quarrying 1 2.00
Railway 11 386.06
Rehabilitation 0 0
Road 227 1487.82
School 2 4.38
Thermal 3 49.83
Transmission Line 46 578.67
Village Electricity 12 9.72
Wind Power 1 18.00
TOTAL 932 11467.83

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