KOLKATA: West Bengal does not have a forest policy or an eco-tourism strategy to meet the objectives set in the National Forest Policy, the Comptroller and Auditor
General has pointed out in its latest report. In 2006, the National Forest Commission had recommended that each state should have its own forest policy for sustainable management of forest and wildlife resources.
"(Forest) Directorate stated (November 2013) that they were acting on a vision document prepared for next three years based on the objectives of the National Forest Policy and action would be taken up to frame state forest policy," the CAG report said.
When contacted, state Forest Minister Binay Krishna Barman told PTI that they recently had a meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the policies would be made public soon.
In June 2011, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had issued guidelines emphasising that every state should formulate its eco-tourism strategy by 31 December, 2011 to enhance wildlife protection and conservation while providing nature-compatible livelihoods for those living around the ecosystem.
"Audit observed that department did not frame (January 2014) state level eco-tourism strategy to achieve this goal. As a result, conservation of environment and improvement of the local people through tourism remained unachieved.
Directorate stated that the state eco-tourism strategy was under preparation," the CAG said.
The CAG also pulled up the forest department for not having its own management plan for Protected Areas.
"Non-preparation/delayed preparation of policies and plans indicated casual approach of department in implementation of forest and wildlife protection and conservation activities," the report said.
The CAG also blamed the government for not complying with the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 which led to non-realisation of Rs 101.42 crore against diversion of forest land.
Survival rate of plantation in the state was much below the norms resulting in unfruitful expenditure of Rs 5.96 crore on failed plantation, the CAG said.
Despite presence of 4281 forest protection committees to protect the forest, 40287 cases of illicit felling of trees were reported and timber worth Rs 27.29 crore seized in raids, it said.