| In crisis |
Guwahati, Nov. 14: Arunachal Pradesh is finding it difficult to provide land for compensatory afforestation for the loss of forestland because of the upcoming hydroelectric projects.
The Forest Conservation Act 1980 requires that compensatory afforestation should be carried out in “equivalent” non-forest areas to cover for loss of forestland in non-forest projects, like industries and dams.
Sources said Arunachal Pradesh, where a large number of hydroelectric projects are coming up, has informed the inter-ministerial committee for hydropower development for Northeast that providing non-forest land for compensatory afforestation is a problem as the state has 81 per cent of its area under forest. The state forest department has informed that it has been able to identify only 12,800 hectares of degraded forestland in 11 forest divisions.
On the other hand, according to ministry of environment and forests, which based its report on the state of forest report (2009), Arunachal Pradesh has degraded forest area of 15 lakh hectares.
The committee has asked the Arunachal Pradesh forest department to re-evaluate the figures and to analyse the reason for the variance.
The ministerial committee in its report said that the Central Electricity Authority has estimated that an area of 19,882 hectares of forestland will be diverted for non-forest use in the state for 18 out of 39 projects with a capacity of 100MW or more.
The report further said that if non-forest land is available in the state, compensatory afforestation should be done in the state itself. But if the requisite area of land is not available in the state, the possibility of arranging land in other states of the region may also be explored. If that too is not available, the possibility of compensatory afforestation is other states may be explored.
The issue of compensatory afforestation as a constraint in hydropower development was not raised by other states of the region, but all the states have been asked to prepare an inventory of available degraded forestland.
Developers executing the projects are already showing concern about the delay in getting environment and forest clearances at the state level, which has resulted in delay in implementation of projects.
Sources said there has been an agreement that state governments shall facilitate environment and forest clearances at state level, and in order to speed up the process, a single window clearance mechanism under the chief secretary of the state may be constituted.
The committee has recommended a fixed timeframe for speedy implementation of various steps involved in these clearances.