57k Hectares Forest Land have been Transferred to Odisha, Report Says
According to a recent report by the provincial government, Odisha, one of India’s most prone to natural disasters, converted 57,410 hectares of forest land for non-forest purposes on March 31, 2020.
According to this 2019-20 yearly report of each Department of Forestry and Environment (now Forest, Environment and Climate Change) published in March 2021:
- Most of the forest land (28,409 hectares) was delivered through 186 mining projects
- 10,652 ha of 84 irrigation projects
- 4,405 ha of 29 industrial jobs
- 4,339 ha of 70 transfer projects
- 3,865 ha for four defense projects
- 2,433 ha for 20 railway projects
- 101 ha mineral mining in the forest
- 846 ha of small public government projects of the state government
According to state records, Odisha has a forest area of 61,204.17 square kilometers, 40 percent of its total area. The Forest Survey regarding India (FSI) under 2019 places a forest cover at 51 619 sq km, about 33 percent of the state’s land area. In addition, forest cover has increased by 274 sq km in two years since 2017, the FSI report said.
An estimated 18,500,748 trees were felled in the province between 2010-11 and 2020-21 to widen the various roads, Odisha Forestry and Environment Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh told Parliament at the State House on March 30, 2021.
At the same time, 2,983,573 trees were planted under the forestry program to compensate for the loss of green cover, he added.
The government has failed to follow its guidelines on the reimbursement plant while cutting down trees, said Biswajit Mohanty, an environmentalist. At least two or ten times the trees cut down in non-forested and forested areas, respectively, should have been grown by organizations according to guidelines, he added.
Diversion of forest land for non-forest use and deforestation regardless of road widening is one of the major causes of common natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and droughts in the province, said SN Patra, president of the Odisha Environmental Society.
Forest land reform has also affected the livelihoods of forest dwellers who rely on the small-scale forest and wildlife products, said Sanjit Patnaik, director of the Koraput-based South Orissa Voluntary Action. He urged the government to reduce the use of forest land to improve environmental protection.
Trees along the road could be saved through land transfers, said Sudhir Rout, founder of the Aryabhatta Foundation, an organization for planting, protecting, and conserving trees in Odisha.
The government has reduced the area allocated to deforestation, the chief executive officer of the forestry department, environment, and climate change. He said in 2016-17, the state cleared only 297.87 hectares of forest from non-forest cover.
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