Data from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) have revealed that 82,893.61 hectares of forest land across the country was approved for non-forestry use under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 between April 2016 and March 2021. In the same period, 16,312.03 hectares of forest land was diverted for mining purposes alone.
As per available records, 206 proposals involving 4,118.109067 hectares within protected areas including national parks and sanctuaries have been recommended for clearance by the Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife (SCNBWL) during 2020 and 2021.
In Karnataka, 1,355.26 hectares of forest land has been diverted for non-forestry purposes in the past five years. In 2016-2017, 199.20 hectares were diverted, 2017-2018 (326.52 hectares), 2018-2019 (139.64 hectares), 2019-2020 (390.12 hectares), 2020-2021 (299.78 hectares).
In comparison, neighbouring Kerala diverted 9.21 hectares of forest land and Tamil Nadu diverted 81.91 hectares for non-forestry use.
The data accessed by indianexpress.com show that over eleven projects including quarrying, widening of roads and construction of a five-star hotel are pending for approval at the level of the deputy conservator of forest in Karnataka from January 2021.
The top three states which diverted the maximum amount of forest land for non-forestry use are Madhya Pradesh (19,638.41 hectares), Odisha (11,862.24 hectares) and Telangana (8,209.32 hectares).
Moreover, the MoEF&CC recently came up with data on the status of forest encroachment in different states, in which Karnataka topped the charts with a total of 83,092.06 hectares of forest areas under encroachment.
Dr TV Ramchandra from the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, said, “Considering the changes in climate, which would affect the livelihoods and hurt the nation’s economy, it would be prudent to conserve the fragile ecosystems, which costs less compared to spending money and resources on restoration, rejuvenation.”