BHUBANESWAR: Diversion of forests in Odisha for development projects is among the highest in the country. Last year, the Centre accorded approval for diversion of 809.43 hectare of forest land in the State. According to latest data, at least 14,777.6 hectare forest land was diverted between January 1 and December 31. However, compared to Telangana, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, the rate of forest diversion in Odisha was not as sharp. Telangana alone accounted for diversion of 4,876 hectares while Rajasthan diverted 2.025 hectare. In Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, diversion for 1,367, 1,202 and 1067 h e c t a re was approved respectively.
Odisha stood sixth in terms of forest diversion approved during 2017. The Centre gives the final approval to proposals submitted by the States under Section 2 of Forest Conservation Act, 1980. During the last eight months, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) recommended 51 cases which required diversion of 22,059 hectare forest land in 12 States. Odisha was among the top five where 13 proposals required diversion of 2,817 hectare. Once again, MP was right at the top with just 11 proposals seeking diversion of a whopping 7,657 hectare followed by Telangana (3,820 hectare), AP (3,166 hectare) and Gujarat (2,867 hectare). A cumulative analysis reveals that a total of 48,442 hectare forest has been diverted in the State so far for 461 projects. Mining and irrigation projects take the lion’s share in this.
As many as 171 mining projects have led to diversion of 22,666 hectare in the State while irrigation projects, 84 in number, necessitated 9,777 hectare diversion. Similarly, 27 industries required diversion of 4,286 hectare whereas for just four defence establishments and projects about 3,865 hectare forest was diverted. Linear infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges led to diversion of 314 hectare in 40 proposals. Under the Forest Rights Act, about 583 hectare forest land has been diverted.
The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has authorised DFOs to permit diversion up to one hectare in one case under the Act. For all the diversion of forests, compensatory afforestation has been taken up over 8.29 lakh hectare land in the State. Such afforestation is taken over non-forest as well as degraded forest land. In Odisha, so far, compensatory afforestation has been taken up over a total of 58,628 hectare of which 30,649 are non-forest land while the rest is degraded forest land.