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Great Nicobar project gets in-principle clearance for diversion of 130 sq km of forest

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It’s practically 1 / 4 of all of the forest land diverted prior to now three years throughout the nation; 8.5 lakh bushes must be minimize for the ₹72,000-crore mission

It’s practically 1 / 4 of all of the forest land diverted prior to now three years throughout the nation; 8.5 lakh bushes must be minimize for the ₹72,000-crore mission

The Union Ministry of Surroundings, Forest and Local weather Change (MoEFCC) has granted an in-principle (Stage 1) clearance for the diversion of 130.75 sq km of forest in Nice Nicobar Island for the mega ₹72,000-crore project that features a transshipment port, an airport, an influence plant and a greenfield township. The mission implementation company is the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Built-in Improvement Company (ANIIDCO).

Ecological wealth

The world is sort of 15% of the thickly forested Nice Nicobar Island that’s unfold over 900 sq km. This is likely one of the largest single such forest diversions in current instances: it’s practically 1 / 4 of all of the forest land diverted prior to now three years throughout the nation (554 sq km as per info offered within the Lok Sabha in July ) and 65% of the 203 sq km of forest land diverted within the three yr interval 2015-18.

The Ministry’s personal estimates recommend that 8.5 lakh bushes must be minimize in Nice Nicobar for this mission. That is doubly important as a result of these are main evergreen tropical forests with excessive organic variety and in addition excessive endemism; Ministry paperwork themselves state that the island has among the many finest preserved tropical forests on the planet, is house to almost 650 species of flora and 330 species of fauna, together with endemic species such because the Nicobar shrew, the Nicobar long-tailed macaque, the Nice Nicobar crested serpent eagle, the Nicobar paradise flycatcher and the Nicobar megapode, amongst many others.

Compensatory afforestation

A letter confirming the clearance was issued on October 27 by the Ministry’s forest conservation division. Signed by Suneet Bhardwaj, Assistant Inspector Normal of Forests, the letter states that the permission has been granted following a “cautious examination” of the island administration’s request for a similar dated October 7, 2020 and “on foundation of the suggestions of the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) and its acceptance by the competent authority within the Ministry”.

A key situation for the clearance is the submission of an in depth scheme for compensatory afforestation, which is to be completed on “non-notified forest land” in Haryana. It additionally states that an quantity of ₹3,672 crore must be earmarked for the atmosphere administration plan (EMP) for the development and operation section of the mission. The ultimate atmosphere influence evaluation (EIA) report of the mission that was ready in March 2022 and accepted by the Ministry’s Knowledgeable Appraisal Committee (EAC) had calculated the price of this compensatory afforestation to be ₹970 crores.

Great Nicobar is home to nearly 650 species of flora and 330 species of fauna. Special Arrangement

Nice Nicobar is house to almost 650 species of flora and 330 species of fauna. Particular Association

Curiously, the ultimate EIA report talked about that the compensatory afforestation over 260 sq km (twice the diversion space) shall be carried out in Madhya Pradesh and even carries a letter of the Andaman and Nicobar Forest Division certifying that the Authorities of Madhya Pradesh has submitted the main points for a similar. There is no such thing as a readability on how the swap was made to Haryana and what course of, if any, was adopted for a similar. Although the permission letter mentions the “suggestions of the FAC”, no particulars or minutes can be found on the Ministry’s web site of the FAC conferences the place these choices had been taken.

Communications (and reminders) looking for particulars despatched to the official e-mail addresses of all of the members of the FAC that granted the forest clearance additionally didn’t evoke any response. A proper to info (RTI) software filed in October looking for the main points of the compensatory afforestation scheme in Madhya Pradesh was actually rejected beneath Part 8.1(a) of the RTI Act that cites safety, strategic, scientific or financial pursuits of the state.

Haryana stands out for having one of many highest charges of diversion of its personal forest land though the forest cowl within the State is minimal. The State diverted practically 80 sq km of its forest between 2014-15 and 2016-17, the very best for any State within the nation for that interval. The State was additionally chastised in Could for unwise use of compensatory afforestation funds, an excessive amount of concentrate on plantations and failure to lift the forest space, by Ashok Khemka, steering committee member of Haryana’s Compensatory Afforestation Fund Administration and Planning Authority (CAMPA).

“It’s not clear,” says Debi Goenka, govt trustee of the Conservation Act Belief (CAT), “how ANIIDCO, the mission proponent, will compensate for the lack of these virgin tropical forests teeming with endemic and endangered species with synthetic tree plantations within the faraway State of Haryana.”

“Additionally it is obvious,” he continues, “that it will likely be nearly unattainable to get 130 sq km of forest land in Haryana which might be contiguous and undisturbed.”

He factors to quite a few different authorized points on this in-principle forest clearance. These embrace the neglect of a number of clauses of the Forest Conservation Guidelines and Pointers within the de-reservation course of and in addition the violation of a Supreme Courtroom order of November 13, 2000 (reiterated on February 9, 2004) which ordered no additional “de-reservation of forests/sanctuaries/nationwide parks”.

Additionally learn | NITI Aayog’s megacity plan for Little Andaman alarms conservationists

“It’s unlucky,” says one other senior researcher on situations of anonymity, “that we hear of the destruction of a number of the best tropical forests within the nation concurrently our Surroundings Minister is telling the world on the ongoing United Nations local weather convention in Egypt that India is ‘part of the answer and never the issue’. There’s a enormous hole right here, clearly, between phrases and deeds.”

(Pankaj Sekhsaria has been researching problems with the Andaman and Nicobar Islands for over 20 years. He has authored 5 books on the islands)

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