A clamour has been raised in the past couple of years over forest land being diverted for mining purposes. But surprisingly, in the past 15 years, much more forest land has been used for ‘non-forest’ purposes and diverted for regularisation of ‘illegal encroachments rather than for mining projects.’ Since, 1995, a whopping 8.14 lakh hectares of forest land had been diverted for non-forest purposes.
According to Environment Ministry sources, since 1995, 2.49 lakh hectares of land had been diverted for 14 proposals involving regularisation of illegal encroachments, which are largely a result of bad and town planning in cities in towns across the country. Mining ranks a distant second as 1.31 lakh hectares of forest land had been diverted for 1,510 mining proposals, including coal mining. Moreover, 7,151 proposals falling in the category of ‘other projects’ have claimed over 1.50 lakh hectares of land.
Use of forest land for non-forest purposes, including for new mines, industries, road and coal projects, requires prior approval of Central Government in accordance with the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. Regularisation of encroachments and mining, take the first and the second position of the largest claimant of forest land in the past 17 years. The third largest claimant of forest land are irrigation projects, with over 72,000 hectares of forest land been diverted for 1268 proposals since 1995, the fourth place goes to hydel projects with over 52,000 hectares being diverted for 415 proposals and the fifth to 16 proposals involving conversion of forest village into revenue village which had claimed over 41,000 hectares of forest land.
Other purposes for which forest land has been diverted are defence projects;, 24,858 hectares for 208 proposals; rehabilitation projects 15,788 acres for 40 proposals; railway projects, 5,234 acres for 233 proposals; dispensaries and hospitals, 108 hectares for 22 proposals; drinking water projects, 1,904 hectares for 1,038 proposals; road projects, 39,773 hectares for 5,543 proposals; schools 532 hectares for 89 proposals; thermal power projects 3,331 hectares for 31 proposals, Transmission line projects 21,503 hectares for 1,641 proposals; village electrification projects 21 hectares for 15 proposals and wind power projects, 3,848 hectares for 68 proposals.