New Delhi: The Environment Ministry's report on identifying "inviolate" forest areas has met with strong objections from most of the members of the Agriculture Minister-headed inter-ministerial panel saying that it would restrict many more areas for coal mining.
"Most of the members of the Group of Minister (GoM), headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, objected to the Environment Ministry's report on "inviolate" forest areas stating it if adopted would restrict more areas," a source privy to the development told PTI.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had in January put out the report on parameters for identifying 'inviolate' forest areas.
During the GoM meeting yesterday, the Planning Commission raised objections to the report and asked the rational behind scores given by the committee to different forest types on a scale of 1 to 100, based on comparative ecological significance, extent and range and uniqueness.
"Members present at the meeting were not convinced with the report as it was done unilaterally by an Environment Ministry panel, without participation of all stakeholders," the source said.
Commenting on the report, the Coal Ministry had earlier said that it requires further consultations with all the stakeholders, including states, central ministries and producing companies.
A complete ban on mining activities in areas of national parks, tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries could be on the anvil if the government agrees to the recommendations of a high-level Environment Ministry panel.
The panel, chaired by then Environment Ministry Secretary T Chatterjee, has recommended that thick forests in such areas should be classified as "inviolate".
"Mining blocks shall be considered inviolate if majority of grids falling within a block have been labelled as inviolate," according to the Report of the Committee to Formulate Objective Parameters for Identification of Inviolate Forest Areas.
The forest grids have to be determined based on their biological richness, thickness, landscape integrity and hydrological and wildlife values, said the report placed in public domain by the Ministry.
Although the panel submitted the report in July, the ministry chose to make it public only now amid debate on the issue of diversion of forest areas for mining and infrastructure projects.
According to it, all the grids falling in protected areas (national parks and wildlife sanctuaries) located in within 1 km distance from boundary of protected areas and compact patches (of minimum 1 sq km) of very dense forests should be automatically labelled inviolate.
The panel was constituted after then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee rejected the 'go, no-go' policy of the Environment Ministry which allowed certain forest areas to be mined.