National

99.82% projects in forests got nod

India’s apex National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) — charged with allowing forest land in Protected Areas to be diverted for industry — cleared 682 of the 687 projects (99.82%) that came up for scrutiny, according to a response to a query in the Lok Sabha earlier this month. Only five projects were rejected since August 2014.

A wildlife expert, formerly associated with the NBWL, described it as a “clearance house.” From 2009-2013, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) recommended 260 of the 328 that came into its purview — or about 80% of the projects. It had deferred nearly 243 projects after 2013, according to a 2017 analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment.

“The environment ministry has delegated all powers of the NBWL to a compliant Standing Committee which regularly meets and clears projects in Protected Areas with little due diligence,” said Praveen Bhargav, an NBWL member from 2007-2010 and Managing Trustee, Wildlife First.

The NBWL, formally headed by the Prime Minister, adjudicates on industrial projects, road diversions or the like that could encroach into Protected Areas or eco-sensitive zones of forests. A smaller Standing Committee of the NBWL is charged with deliberating on the merits of projects that come to it for scrutiny; the committee comprises scientists and government officials and is chaired by Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan.

Streamlined processes

Officials said the increased clearances were due to streamlined processes. “For one, we have regular meetings since 2014, and filling applications have largely gone online. Problematic projects are now usually dealt with at the level of State and what ultimately comes to NBWL is one that has already passed scrutiny,” said Siddhanta Das, Director General, Forests.

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 8:40:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/9982-projects-in-forests-got-nod/article26261368.ece

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