“This despite the recommendation of National Forest Commission''
The State has failed to frame its own forest policy even six years after the National Forest Commission recommended that each State should have its own policy for sustainable development of forests and wildlife resources.
The Comptroller and Audit General (CAG) Report (Civil) for the year ended March 2011, which was tabled in the Assembly on Wednesday, has found that the State had failed in its set targets in improving the forest cover and in allocation for the sector during the XI Plan period. Audit scrutiny revealed that the draft forest policy was sent to the government in October 2007 but was returned in March 2010 with instructions to include areas such as forest roads, tribal development and eco-tourism.
The revised draft policy was submitted to the government in 2011. The inordinate delay of two-and-half years at the government level and one-and-half years at the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) level led to non-framing of the State-specific policy, CAG said.
Officials of the forest department told The Hindu that the forest policy was yet to be approved by the government.
According to the CAG report, the actual allocation of funds for forestry and wildlife sector in the State, which was 4.30 per cent of the total plan outlay in the Tenth Plan, declined to 1.51 per cent in the Eleventh five-year plan as against the four per cent recommended by the Union Planning Commission.
The report also found the progress of land settlement to be tardy. The PCCF told the audit team that 58,677 hectares of land were notified as forest land and reserve forest under Section 16 and proposals for 8,467 hectares had been sent to the government.
The fact was that the progress was only 34 per cent and an extent of 1.12 lakh hectares still remained to be notified, the CAG said. It also faulted the government for poor progress in eviction of encroachments from forest land. The audit noticed that 14,352 hectares of forest land were under encroachment at the end of December 2010, including new encroachments of 796 ha during 2008-10. In 12 test-checked divisions (as of March 2011), an area of 10,196 ha of forest land were reported as encroached (9,547 cases) by private individuals, educational institutions, defence establishments, State government's establishments and others.
In eight Reserve Forest areas of five divisions, the land was under encroachment for more than 30 to 50 years, the CAG said it was unwilling to accept the PCCF's argument that effective co-ordination was necessary among police, revenue and forest officials.