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Friday, March 2, 2012

25% additional forest land for infrastructure projects in India

As per the report in Hindustan Times dated Feb 22nd, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India has agreed to divert additional 25% forest land that was earlier categorised as ‘no-go’ area for infrastructure projects like power, road, coal, etc. The decision was taken after a group of CEOs led by Mr. Ratan Tata met the Prime Minister of India and some of his Cabinet ministers. The Prime Minister’s Office promptly swung into action and within merely two weeks took a decision that will have a huge negative impact on India's forests and wildlife!

Knowing the Government of India’s penchant for ‘development’ and the Environment Ministry’s ‘efficiency’ to clear several industrial projects in some of the pristine Protected Areas of India, this news didn’t really shock me. With the country’s forests and wildlife already fragmented into small pockets, the decision to divert additional 25% forest area for developmental projects is certainly going to make matters worse. When the National Tiger Conservation Authority is pushing to control wildlife tourism to make tiger habitats inviolate, what justification does the Government of India have in giving away already scarce forest land that could well be a tiger habitat, an important wildlife corridor or a catchment for rivers? Once and for all, the MoEF must come out with a comprehensive policy clearly mentioning the existing ‘no-go’ areas and placing a moratorium on any further development in these areas, however important it may seem to be.

It is my fervent wish that the corporate sector should act more responsibly in future and avoid infrastructure projects in the ‘no-go’ areas. After all, infrastructure could be located elsewhere but species lost and ecosystems destroyed cannot be recreated.

DILIP KHATAU
Chairman, The Corbett Foundation

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