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Nod to de-reserve forest stretch

- Step to regularise settlements built after 1950 earthquake

Guwahati, March 3: The environment and forests ministry today de-reserved 134.20 sq km of Deopani reserve forest in the Lower Dibang Valley of Arunachal Pradesh.

In 1991, the Arunachal Pradesh government had sent a proposal to the ministry of environment and forests — seeking the Centre’s approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, to de-reserve 134.91 sq km of forestland to regularise the settlements that locals had built in Deopani after the 1950 earthquake.

On November 13, 2001, the Supreme Court passed an order restraining de-reservation of forests/sanctuaries/national parks.

The environment and forests ministry then requested Arunachal Pradesh to obtain specific permission from the Supreme Court, which the latter gave in 2011.

Official sources said the ministry after examining the request of the state government had referred the matter for consideration of the Forest Advisory Committee in its meeting held in September 2012.

The committee cleared the proposal, saying the Supreme Court had also cleared it based on the recommendations of the Central Empowered Committee.

Firoz Ahmed, a member of the Forest Advisory Committee, said the part of the area proposed for regularisation is a good riverine area and is used by elephants, wild buffaloes and tigers.

Animals also use this area to migrate to and from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

The committee has told the state government that the habitat should be maintained as a wildlife corridor and appropriate steps should be taken to minimise human-wildlife conflict.

After examining the recommendations of the Forest Advisory Committee, the ministry has referred the matter to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to confirm whether the riverine area in Deopani reserve forest is used by animals, including the tiger.

The NTCA obtained GPS co-ordinates of the area that were analysed by Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India.

The Wildlife Institute of India reported that the area did not fall under a tiger reserve or corridor, following which the NTCA gave its no-objection certificate.