Other States

Centre objects to Uttarakhand’s definition of forest

A view of a forest area in Uttarakhand. File

A view of a forest area in Uttarakhand. File  

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Order violates SC orders, says MoEF; activists fear carte blanche for builders.

The Union Ministry for Environment and Forests (MoEF) has objected to an Uttarakhand government’s notification defining the term ‘forest’.

In a notification on November 21, the Uttarakhand government said that in areas recorded as “deemed forest”, only tracts 10 hectares and more, and having a canopy density of greater than 60%, would be considered as forests. Land already registered as ‘reserved’ and ‘protected’ forests would be out of the remit of this definition. However, land recorded in government records as ‘revenue’ land could potentially be influenced by this definition of deemed forest.

The MoEF’s Forest Conservation division said in a note on December 5 that the Uttarakhand order was in “contravention” of the Supreme Court's orders. The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 would be applicable to all areas recorded as forest in any government records....the State should not issue any communication that is violative of any order passed by the Supreme Court, the Ministry said.

The note, viewed by The Hindu, was signed by Brijendra Swaroop, Deputy Inspector-General of Forests.

The freedom to define which tracts of vegetation qualify as forest has been the prerogative of States since 1996 and forests have to be understood in the “dictionary definition” of the term, the Supreme Court ruled in the Godvarman judgment that year.

Uttarakhand’s Principal Chief Conservator-Forests Jai Raj told The Hindu that his department would soon reply to the Centre's objections. He maintained that the State was correct in its interpretation of the Supreme Court order and that protected forests would remain inviolate.

Deemed forests, which comprise about 1% of India’s forest land, are a controversial subject as they refer to land tracts that appear to be a “forest”, but have not been notified so by the government or in historical records. Environmentalists say Uttarakhand’s criteria paves the way for large parts of forestland to be captured by builders and industrialists.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 4:29:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/centre-objects-to-uttarakhands-definition-of-forest/article30220072.ece

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