Post-liberalisation changes in laws a major factor

In January this year the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) disclosed the startling fact that in the last three decades, close to 110,000 hectares of forest land has been lost to 1,309 cases of mining activities in varying categories. Even more shocking was the statement that the mining had received official sanction.

The justification for this was that the forest land was denuded and therefore apparently of no further use in forest terms. Firstly, land that is dismissed as “denuded” is nothing more than over-exploited land that is temporarily non-productive from the human point of view. Left untouched for a period of time, land regenerates. The label of “denuded” is just a convenient excuse to re-designate the land and use it for commerce and profit. So the concept of denuded land is essentially a fallacy. And secondly, all forest land comes under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and is protected under it. Under the FCA, anyone wanting to alter the status of forest land must get permission from the MoEF. It does not bode well for the country’s forests if MoEF, the designated protector of forests, has signed away close to one per cent of the country’s already beleaguered forests to mining and extraction activities.

Full article can be read at The Hindu's Survey of the Environment 2010. The publication is now on stands. Copies can be obtained by Registered Post (not V.P.P.) for Rs.80 (Rupees Eighty) by drawing a cheque in favour of "Kasturi and Sons Ltd." (Add Rs.10 for non-Chennai cheques) and sending it to the Circulation Department, The Hindu, 859-860, Anna Salai, Chennai 600002 Email: subs@thehindu.co.in

Lyla Bavadam is Senior Assistant Editor, Frontline.