The government has given approval for diversion of 35,867 hectares of forest land in a total of 783 cases in 2014, Parliament was informed today.
"The central government has given approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, for diversion of 35,867 hectares (ha) of forest land in 783 cases during 2014," Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said in a written reply in Lok Sabha.
Maximum forest land of 9,830 ha was diverted in Madhya Pradesh, followed by Odisha (4,516 ha), Andhra Pradesh (3,334 ha) Chhattisgarh (3,236 ha), Jharkhand (2,989 ha) and Maharashtra (2,380 ha), according to the data placed before the Lower House.
However, there was no diversion of forest land in 2014 in states and Union Territories such as Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Pondicherry, Daman and Diu and Lakshadweep, the data said.
To a separate query on whether the Tribal Affairs Ministry had raised objections to the dilution of forest law, Javadekar said, "The process of inter-ministerial consultation is still going on."
The Environment Ministry has formulated draft revised guidelines on ensuring compliance with the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, in cases of diversion of forest land for non-forest purpose under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, Javadekar added.
On the issue of encroachment in Sunderbans forest area, he said in a separate reply that, barring two cases, there are no encroachments in the said site in West Bengal.
There is encroachment in the Saptamukhi-I forest block in Purba Bijoybati and Debinibas under Bakkhali range. About five hectares of land undergoes seasonal encroachment every year during the period of fish drying, he said.
There is also encroachment of about 10 hectares of forest land in 24-Parganas (South) forest division, which is being utilised by West Bengal Fisheries Corporation without approaching the forest department of the state government for formal diversion, he added.
The minister said that the National Green Tribunal has directed the state government to set up a committee to monitor the various activities in the Sunderbans forest area.