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Govt Allows Forest Land To Be 'Temporarily' Used By Anyone, Activists Fear Destruction

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Indiatimes
17th October, 2019 10:33 IST

Forest areas are the only major green covers left in the country. If even those are exploited and littered with plastic, you know we are in serious trouble.

Instead of fiercely protecting the forest covers of the country, the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change has said that forest land can be used ‘temporarily’ by any person, firm or organisation, except the ‘protected areas’.

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According to The New Indian Express a letter by the assistant inspector general of forests, Sandeep Sharma reads, ‘I am further directed to say that the matter has been examined in detail by the Ministry and it has been decided that, temporary work in forest land which does not involve part of any Protected Area, breaking up or clearing of forest land or portion thereof, assigning by way of lease or otherwise to a firm, person or organization using such forest land temporarily, and does not create any right over such forest land over such firm, person, organization, will not require prior approval of the Central Government under the FC Act 1980’.

Padma Shree awardee based in Nainital, Shekhar Pathak criticised this move and reportedly said, "This is a direct violation of the act which was passed by the Parliament of this country to protect our forests. This will allow open abuse of the forests of this country as well as Uttarakhand."

According to activists the act is put into place to ‘curb unwarranted diversion of forest land to protect the forests of the country’.

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Ritwick Dutta, a lawyer from the Supreme Court reportedly said, "Most disturbingly, resorts and hotels can have full access to RF and PF next to their land for various activities including parties and social events. The entire sanctity of the Forests and the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 has been undermined. On the face of it, the letter is illegal and violates both the FC Act as well as the Judgment of the NGT in Safe versus Union of India."

"This simply means that anyone can put up tents across the borders of Corbett Tiger Reserve and do whatever they want. There is as much wildlife in Ramnagar forest division as in Corbett. There will be anarchy and flora and fauna is going to be affected," The New Indian Express quotes a woman officer as saying.

The letter issued by the ministry means that anyone can conduct a wedding in a place like Auli if the DFO gives the permission. No other approval from the central or state government is needed.

You might remember the grand Gupta wedding that happened in June in Auli which apart from turning it into a ‘tourist destination’ turned it into a garbage dump.

Uttarakhand: Work underway by Municipal Corporation to clean up the garbage and waste left behind in Auli after the marriage of members of the Gupta family of South Africa, at the hill station held between 18 to 22 June. pic.twitter.com/lsIEnaOLqY

— ANI (@ANI)

The Rs 200 crore wedding left behind 4000kg of garbage which the locals had to deal with.

If anyone is allowed to use the the forest land ‘temporarily’ there is no stopping weddings like these and the aftermath they leave behind.

In June, this year, a public interest litigation was filed in the Uttarakhand high court opposing the wedding of the children of the Gupta brothers, Ajay Gupta and Atul Gupta, in Auli in Chamoli district at a cost of up to Rs 200 crore.

The court, on Monday, has asked the state government and its officials to file a reply in the matter. Earlier, the HC had directed to deposit Rs 3 crore prior to the wedding functions from June 18-22, 2019 to restore damages afterwards.

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