Andhra Pradesh has not bucked the nation-wide trend of irregularities in Compensatory Afforestation (CA) land management, going by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report presented to Parliament recently.
These irregularities are apart from keeping unutilised large amounts released by Centre’s Ad-hoc Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning (CAMPA) to the State CAMPA and not collecting Net Present Value from user agencies.
Among the irregularities that have been observed and listed by CAG, the most significant was non declaration of CA as sanctuary for the Great Indian Bustard, an ostrich like bird that figures prominently in the IUCN’s Red List of critically endangered species. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had approved diversion of 177.47 hectares of forest land for Srisailam Right Branch Canal in Kurnool forest division in March 1993 with the condition that the character of the non-forest land for execution of CA should be maintained for the rare bird and declared it as sanctuary.
The user agency provided 246.77 hectares non forest land for execution of CA in Rollapadu and Sunkesula villages in Kurnool district in 1990 to State Forest department but it was not declared sanctuary as of December 2012. As late as in April 2013 the Ministry told CAG that the area would be notified as sanctuary in a month’s time.
Once common on the dry plains of the Indian Subcontinent, as few as 250 individual birds (all over the country) were estimated in 2011 to survive. Its critically endangered species status now is attributed to hunting and loss of its habitat largely comprising expanses of dry grassland and scrub.
In another interesting case, the Forest Department has accepted already afforested land for CA. In Kadapa forest division 25.08 acres of purportedly non forest land transferred in lieu of diversion of 6.70 hectares forest land in August 2010 for development of Dr. Y. S. R. Smruthi Vanam (in memory of former Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy) was found to have been already afforested with red sanders plantation raised during 2007-08 by AP Forest Development Corporation at a cost of Rs. 17 lakhs.
In a similar case, 339 hectares of forest land in Srikakulam division accepted for CA in lieu of diversion of 567 ha forest land in favour of Singareni Collieres in 2006-08 was subsequently found to be already in possession of the Forest department as “unnoticed forest blocks with growth stock since 1976”. The Forest Ministry has now informed the CAG early notification and raising of CA would be pursued “vigorously.”
As for forest land diverted and non forest land received in lieu, the CAG found several un-reconciled variations in the data provided by the Nodal Officer (NO) of the State CAMPA and the concerned Regional Office (RO) of Union Ministry of Environment and Forest.
The State CAMPA records show that the forest land diverted as 14,208.60 hectares while the RO of MoEF as 13,566.39 ha. The non-forest land received in lieu was given as 10,168.63 ha and 9,512.17 ha working out to only 72 per cent and 70 per cent respectively. While the RO records show no non forest land was transferred/ mutated in favour of Forest department and notified as Reserve Forest, the State NO records that 2,360.39 hectares was transferred/mutated but only 230.80 hectares was declared as Reserve Forest.