The Union minister for environment and forests, Kamal Nath, has allowed the de-reservation of 10,900 ha of forest land in Gujarat's Kheda, Panchmahal and Vadodara districts. He has also said that a proposal to regularise encroachments on another 39,750 ha in the state would be cleared by August 25. The minister said that the 68,000 encroachers who will benefit by the de-reservation had settled in these forests prior to the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act of 1980.
Although Nath has been opposing the recent de-notification of the Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary in Gujarat and the state government's grant of hundreds of salt mining leases on the Kutch coast, he justified the de-reservation by saying that the state government had already identified 50,000 ha of revenue land for compensatory afforestation and that another 50,000 ha will be similarly identified. He pointed out that the state has sanctioned Rs 35.69 crores for afforestation and another Rs 148.68 crore for compensatory afforestation for those areas awaiting de-reservation.
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