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CAG report indicts State on forest land development

V.S. Palaniappan
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Net Present Value was not realised from user agencies in seven cases

Tamil Nadu has its share of adverse comment in the findings of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) relating to diversion of vast tracts of forest lands for development and industrial projects, mismanagement in realisation of Net Present Value (NPV) from user agencies and in managing compensatory and penal funds for afforestation.

 The CAG report indicts the State for failing to realise the NPV in seven cases involving 107.40 hectares of land and amounting to Rs 6.23 crore. The State had witnessed 4,600 hectares increase in forest cover as per 2011 assessment. 

The CAG report also indicates poor or under utilisation of funds from a body in charge of management and planning of funds for afforestation during 2006-2012. Between 2006 and 2009, the State had an ad-hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority, which was later converted into a full-fledged body, known as CAMPA.

According to forest sources, those who utilised forest lands in the State were Tangedco (Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation) and Public Works Department (PWD) for construction of hydel power projects and reservoirs. Besides, blue metal and granite quarries had come up on the forest lands. The sources suggested that a case-to-case study be carried out with regard to leasing of forest lands.

Indicating the present pattern of utilisation of the lands, the sources said cement factories had been set up in Coimbatore and Tirunelveli districts; granite quarries in Villupuram (Kallakurichi) and Krishnagiri and magnesite mining in Salem and Namakkal. Also, the lands in Kancheepuram district had been set apart for an automobile manufacturing firm and an automobile testing facility.

The CAG also identified non-compliance of norms with regard to diversion of lands under various heads such as unauthorised diversion of forest lands, irregular grant of second stage approval, unauthorised occupation of forest land for five years. These instances were found in projects such as construction of a reservoir across Vadakku Pachayar river in Tirunelveli district; diversion of 1.45 hectares for construction of a high-level bridge on Pulicat lake without getting back about three hectares of non-forest land.

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