'200,000 hectares forest land diverted in four years'
Over 8,000 projects, involving a diversion of 200,000 hectares of forest land, have been cleared by the central government in four years and this was double the clearances given in three decades, environmentalist Sunita Narain said here Friday.
"Between 2007 and 2011, two ministers gave environment clearances to 8,000 projects across the country, involving diversion of 200,000 hectares of forest land," she said.
"It was double the clearances given in three decades. The pace of clearances will further increase," Narain, director general of the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, added.
She was here to deliver a keynote address at a workshop on building forest accounts organised by the state's department of environment, science and technology.
Narain said though there were delays in granting approval to all these developmental projects, there had been no rejection.
"The ministry imposes number of conditions while giving environment clearances. But there is no monitoring whether the conditions are fulfilled on the ground or not," she said.
Narain said there was much pressure on forest land. "Unless the benefits of forests are passed to the local communities, the forests cannot be managed and made a part of economic growth."
The environmentalist said there was no doubt the rate of deforestation had been brought down, post-1980. "But this is only half right. The fact is the forests are still under huge pressure," she said.
She said the need is to change the policy on forest diversion for development.
Narain called for valuation of economic, ecological and livelihood potential of forests and to incorporate this into the national accounts.
"A methodology is required to pay for standing trees and we need to use this methodology to increase productivity of the remaining forest land," she added.
(Posted on 01-02-2014)