The Union Environment Ministry is likely to allow compensatory afforestation (CA) for development projects executed in the Capital in neighbouring States due to a shortage of land in Delhi, according to a senior Ministry official.
The issue of shortage in land for CA was flagged by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in two letters to the Ministry in March this year and in May 2021.
Senior DDA officials, who are familiar with the development, said they have not received any communication on the Ministry’s likely move to allow CA in the neighbouring states.
On September 11, The Hindu had reported that the DDA continued to face a land shortage due to which the urban body had been unable to attend to requests from service agencies executing development projects in the Capital. The most recent request, according to a senior DDA official, was for around 25 hectares of land for CA to the Indian Railways. Earlier, the DDA was unable to meet a similar request by the National Highways Authority of India, said the official, adding that more development projects in the city were likely to be affected.
In the March 30 letter to the Environment Ministry, DDA’s Vice-Chairman Manish Gupta had sought relaxation in the guidelines issued under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, for CA to be allowed on degraded forest land in neighbouring States for projects implemented by the Centre and public sector undertakings.
In 2021, the DDA had provided 119.76 hectares of land to various service-providing agencies for CA, according to the data provided by the senior DDA official.
Compensatory Afforestation, according to the Handbook of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, has to be carried out for diversion of forest land or deemed forest land for non-forest purposes, while the purpose of CA is to compensate for the loss of “land by land” and loss of “trees by trees”.
Earlier, the senior official at the Environment Ministry had told The Hindu that the DDA was not facing any land shortage for CA and it was only looking for an “exclusive relaxation” by proposing CA on “double degraded forest land”.
According to paragraph 2.3(i) of chapter 2 of the Act, CA has to be raised on suitable non-forest land, which is equal to the area proposed for diversion, at the cost to be paid by the user agency.
Simultaneously, paragraph 2.3 (iii) states that in cases where non-forest land is available but to a lesser extent, CA can be carried out on degraded land which is twice the extent of the forest area that is being diverted.
The Ministry official had earlier said that the DDA was pushing for a relaxation to carry out CA on “double degraded forest land, which we will not allow”. He had said that the urban body has over 5,000 hectares of land on the Yamuna floodplains, which remains encroached upon and “the DDA is not acting on this”.