Definition of ‘Forest’ awaited from MoE

From ET Realty

NEW DELHI: The delay by environment ministry to come out with the revised definition of “forest” has raised concern among environment activists whether forests developed on private land would not qualify as “forest land”. They fear any such provision may come as a body blow to the Aravalis in Haryana since every inch of this eco-fragile zone has been privatised in recent decades.

Sources said the issue was raised at a recently held meeting in Haryana and a section of officials had suggested Aravalis should be treated “differently” since most of the land falling under this region has been recorded under two sections of Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), which restricts non-forest activities .

“You cannot follow the same norm for all states. We need to increase more forest cover for sustainable development. If we lose vast portion of Aravalis and allow this to be used for real estate and commercial activities we will be hardly left with any land to develop forest,” said an official.

However, a top environment ministry official told TOI that no one should jump to any conclusions before the revised definition is out. He said the draft definition of forest, which is being finalised, will be a comprehensive one and it will be submitted to the Supreme Court soon.

“The records of land parcels will also be taken into consideration while deciding which portions can be recorded as forest. So, many parts of Aravali may not face the threat of losing the forest tag. However, if anyone grows trees in his/ her private land, can we record it as forest?” asked the official.

Government sources said that since the changed definition of forest will have wide ramifications and different groups are pushing for specific amendments, the environment is taking long time.

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