However, environmentalists have refuted the forest department’s claims.
Mumbai: Maharashtra lost 1,067.29 hectares of forest land in 2017 to non-forestry purposes, reveals the data submitted by the environment ministry in Rajya Sabha session. Maharashtra stood fifth among the states in diversion of forest land for other purposes, as per the data, while Telangana ranked first with 4,876 hectares of forestland diverted. The forest department has stated that for Mumbai and Thane, most the forestland is diverted for establishing power lines and construction activities for highways.
“The forest land is diverted by the user agencies/ project proponents after obtaining environment clearances wherever applicable, to these projects from the ministry. The environment clearance is granted after due consideration and Environment Impact Assessment,” read the statement by Dr. Mahesh Sharma, minister of state, environment, forest and climate change, Government of India, in the document submitted to the Rajya Sabha.
“For Mumbai and Thane, forest land has been diverted mostly for laying transmission lines and for construction work for highways. In other parts, there were also projects of rehabilitation of village in the proposals. However, the diversion of forest lands is more regulated now than past years,” said Sai Prakash, additional principal chief conservator of forest (APCCF), Maharashtra forest department.
However, environmentalists have refuted the forest department’s claims. “Most of the diversion is for the developers’ projects. There is an immediate need to come up with stricter guidelines.” said Stalin Dayanand, project director, NGO Vanashakti.