Thursday, November 14, 2013

India News: Compensate forest land for zudpi jungle: Greens (14 Nov 2013)

Compensate forest land for zudpi jungle: Greens
NAGPUR: At a time when state government is deliberating with the Centre to denotify 86,409 hectare zudpi jungle, environmentalists have demanded to notify other equivalent 'non-forest' lands first as forest, which form compactness with other wildlife potential reserve forests.

"It won't be a good idea to lose forest land from Vidarbha," they said. Last Thursday, state chief secretary JK Banthia and Union environment secretary V Rajagopalan had discussed the denotification issue in details.

On April 28, 2011, during a meeting with chief minister Prithviraj Chavan at Nagpur, then environment minister Jairam Ramesh had 'in principle' granted approval to denotifying 32,230 hectare zudpi junglewhich is in pockets having area less than three hectare. State was to submit proposal for 27,000 hectare zudpi jungle that has been encroached upon and another 26,000 hectare that is under non-forest use.

State Wildlife Board (SWB) member Kishor Rithe has five-point poser to chief minister. "We support denotification move 'only if' Chavanagrees to notify other equivalent 'non-forest' lands first as forest, which form compactness with other wildlife potential reserve forests.

The state government should get the non-forest lands for village relocation. Villages should be selected from historical tiger bearing PAs like Chaprala, apart from villages in tiger reserves.

Another demand includes handing over of reserve forests to Forest Development Corporation of Maharashtra (FDCM) in 10km periphery of any PA to wildlife department. "As it is FDCM cannot continue any logging operations in these areas," said Rithe. Non-forest including some zudpi jungle land in corridors connecting tiger reserves should be declared as eco-sensitive areas with restoration plans.

In 1988, the Bombay Environment Action Group (BEAG) had filed a writ petition in the high court at Nagpur challenging the decision to denotify about 3,500 sq km zudpi jungle.

Faced with the fact that legally zudpi jungles were covered under Forest Conservation Act (FCA) 1980, state informed the court that it was withdrawing the GR to denotify zudpi jungles and that these areas would continue to be covered under the FCA since the revenue records mention them as 'scrub forests'. Effectively, this means that these areas have been treated as forests and protected under FCA.

"State's unwillingness or inability to protect these forest lands does not make it a valid reason to accept the destruction or encroachment on forests. If we accept this logic, everything that happens will become fait accompli. We can then write off every forest area, national park and sanctuary because the government has not protected it from encroachments," said Debi Goenka, executive trustee, Conservation Action Trust (CAT).

"Once forest land is written off, it is gone forever and no one will be able to create this land in future. If forest lands have been encroached or illegally diverted, compensate for this loss. If you are forced to surrender small patches, take equivalent areas next to existing RF or PAs in exchange," demanded Nishikant Choudhary of Water, Forest, Land and Wildlife Conservation Movement. "I've already written about it to the CM in July," he said.

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