HP snubbed

For denotifying forestland

Published: Monday 15 September 2003

the Union ministry of environment and forests (mo ef) has taken strong exception to Himachal Pradesh's (hp) decision to denotify a part of its forestland. Under a notification issued in 1952, hp declared all wasteland and tracts on which the state government had proprietary rights as protected areas. However, in 1998, it introduced another notification excluding certain categories of wasteland from forest areas. What brought the issue to the fore again was a fresh application filed recently by the state for denotifying certain parts of reserved forestland. It, however, failed to mention the areas whose status was changed in 1998.

mo ef officials state that the denotification was done in violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act (fca), 1980. The centre had objected earlier, too, when it came to know of the development in 1999. "We want the state government to withdraw the notification as it had no authority to issue it. Under the fca , no state government can denotify forestland and put it to non-forestry use without prior approval of the centre," points out D K Sharma, conservator of forests, regional office, m o ef, Chandigarh.

Legal experts concur with the ministry. But a state government official claims that hp has not violated any law since the denotified land hasn't been put to any non-forestry use so far. "The mere act of denotifying forestland without approval is a contravention of the fca," states an mo ef official.

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