The environment ministry said that forest loss in the Bay of Bengal’s Great Nicobar Island is to be compensated by afforestation in Aravalli in Haryana. The Union Environment Ministry has given its in-principle nod for the diversion of about 130.75 sq km of forest area in Great Nicobar Island for a development project.
With an estimated cost of Rs 72,000 crore, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO) project will see the felling of around 8.5 lakh trees. About 15% of the densely forested 900 km² area – which serves as habitat for rare flora and fauna on the island – will be affected.
According to the report by of Hindustan Times, The project proponent proposed to carry out compensatory afforestation of the project in Haryana Aravalli. A meeting has already been held with the Haryana government for tree plantation in the Aravalli region in an area of about 260 sq km.
A ministry official speaking on condition of anonymity said “The project proponent (M/s Andaman and Nicobar Islands Integrated Development Corporation Ltd) has proposed to carry out the compensatory afforestation of the project in the Haryana Aravallis. They have already had meetings with the Haryana government for plantations in the Aravalli region in an area of around 260 square kilometres”.
“This can be very beneficial in controlling air pollution in the National Capital Region. If more land is needed, reforestation will resume in Madhya Pradesh as well, apart from Haryana,” he added.
Haryana has a forest cover of only 3.63%, according to the Forest Survey of India.
The Greater Nicobar Island nomination was reviewed at the 293rd meeting of the Expert Review Panel held on March 24-25, 2022 and again at the 297th EAC meeting held on 24-25 May 2022.
The EAC had raised concerns about the environmental impact of the project, according to minutes of the panel meeting dated April 5-6 available on Parivesh’s website.
“The Committee notes that the site selection for the port component was made primarily while keeping the technical and financial feasibility in place. Environmental aspects were not considered during site selection. The island has a large number of endangered species, including the Galathea Bay leatherback turtle.
“According to forest regulations, compensatory reforestation cannot be carried out in states with more than 75% forest cover. They must be carried out where the forest area is smaller. Andaman and Nicobar have more than 82% forest cover. Where can we carry out compensatory reforestation? Haryana has very low forest cover, which is why it was selected,” another senior official from the Forest Conservation Division said.
Even some social media users questioned the government, A user wrote A “If this project is essential for India’s socio-economic growth, then first create 130sqkm of forest in Aravalis & then consider any clearance. Our state has never been able to compensate the forest cover it destroyed then how come for other state’s”.
A user tweeted “That still won’t work. What about displaced birds, animals and all the living organisms there and what about the mangroves and the ecosystem they create for marine creatures. I wish some earthquake, volcano or Tsunami derail this stupid idea of destroying the islands”.
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