States with more than 75% forest cover won't have to divert revenue land

Forest Advisory Committee decided this while suggesting that instead states with deficient green land should divert their non-forest land for afforestation to companesate for use of forest land in development projects

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Thursday 16 May 2019
A road passing through a forest is an example of forest land being diverted for infrastructure. Photo: Getty Images

States with more than 75 per cent forest cover won’t be required to provide non-forest land for forest diversion projects, decided the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) in a meeting on April 23, 2019.

Under the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, when a piece of forest land is diverted for non-forestry purpose like mining or infrastructure, an equal area of revenue land/non-forest land or double the area of degraded forest land has to be used for compensatory afforestation. The land, after compensatory afforestation, gets notified either as Reserved or Protected Forest (RF/PF).  

“The states/Union Territories (UTs) with forest land more than 75 per cent of their respective total geographical area, shall not be insisted upon providing non-forest land (for subsequently notifying into reserve forest/protected forest) equal to the forest area diverted for non-forest purposes,” the minutes of the FAC meeting noted.

In its place, the FAC has recommended to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) that compensatory afforestation may take place in other states deficient in forest land.

Compensatory afforestation should not be done on an area which is less than 5 hectares (ha), with the exception of an area that is adjoining a reserve or protected forest, recommended the committee.

The rationale given for this is managing small areas is tough. “Isolated patches with area less than 5 ha are difficult to manage as forests. Hence no non-forest land with area less than 5 ha shall be accepted for compensatory afforestation purpose. However, land parcels, if contiguous to RF/PF, can be accepted for compensatory afforestation irrespective of their sizes, subject to their suitability for compensatory afforestation,” the minutes note.

The process of handing over the land, according to the FAC, has to be done by the user agency which is getting the land diverted. Also, it has to be done before Stage II, when final clearance is granted to the project.

“User agency shall fence all such land parcels properly and mutate them in the name of forest department before handing them to the forest department. All such land parcels shall be compact (without any pockets of habitation or non-forest land) and free from any encumbrances,” the FAC said. 

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