New Delhi, Jan 18: Haryana diverted the most forest land -- 79.44 sq km or about 200 times the size of New Delhi's Lodhi Gardens or 900 times size of Mumbai's Nariman Point -- from its forest area of 1,584 sq km between 2014-15 and 2016-17, according to a reply to the Lok Sabha last month.
Up to three per cent of Haryana's land, nearly the size of Delhi, is officially marked as forests.
The top state in diverting forests for purposes like infrastructure and industrial projects is now reaching out to the central government for funds under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) for forest conservation activities.
The Forest Conservation Act, 1980, requires project developers to pay for compensatory afforestation in lieu of forest lands diverted for their use. The money goes to a central corpus, the CAMPA Fund, which now amounts to more than Rs 50,000 crore, managed by an ad-hoc authority constituted by the Supreme Court.
The Haryana government has decided to approach the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to remove the cap of 10 per cent, and allow expenditure on plantation of trees and forest management activities according to the requirement of the state government.
The state has taken the decision in light of the National Forest Policy (NFP), which mandates for plain areas to have 20 per cent forest and tree cover. The NFP is an overarching policy for forest management to bring at least a third of India's total area under forest or tree cover.
Haryana, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Maharashtra together diverted 560.69 sq km of forest area -- almost the size of Puducherry -- for non-forestry purposes, accounting for more than 50 per cent of forest diverted between 2014-15 and 2016-17.
Over three financial years to 2017, Haryana received about Rs 105 crore from the CAMPA fund, according to the Lok Sabha reply.
Among the states and Union Territories that diverted the least amount of forest land are Dadar & Nagar Haveli at a mere 1.51 hectares, Kerala at 0.13 sq km, Sikkim at 0.24 sq km, Goa at 0.41 sq km and Mizoram at 0.75 sq km.
(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform, with whom Bhasker Tripathi is a principal correspondent. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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