New Delhi: Amid concerns over delays in project approvals over forest land, a central committee has suggested putting in place an institutional mechanism for expeditious implementation of forest clearances.
The committee constituted by the Environment Ministry has also invited comments on the revised draft "Policy on Inspection, Verification, Monitoring and Overall Procedure Relating to Grant of Forest Clearances and Identification of Forests" from stakeholders within a month.
"The major area of concern in the forest clearance process is the huge backlog in execution of the measures stipulated in the approval accorded under the FC Act to mitigate impact of diversion of forest land," the committee noted in the revised draft.
It said that though the funds for execution of these measures are realised before transfer of forest land to the user agency, a huge sum of more than Rs 25,000 crore is at present lying unutilised with the ad-hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), it said.
The committee found that monitoring was the "weakest link in the entire forest clearance process" and suggested putting in place an effective system for monitoring by user agency as well as the Centre and states.
The committee in its draft policy said that executive head of the project, accorded diversion of more than 100 hectares of forest land, will have to review at least once a year and the summary of the compliance will have to be specifically reported in the annual report of the agency.
"Action taken by the state forest department to monitor compliance to conditions stipulated will be reported in the Annual Administrative Report of the State Forest Department," the committee said in its draft policy as far as state monitoring of such projects were concerned.
The committee said that mining, hydel, irrigation and multipurpose river valley projects involving diversion of more than 40 hectares of forest land and other projects of these categories located in protected areas (PAs), eco-sensitive zone around PAs and others shall have to be inspected by deputy conservator of forest twice a year, conservator of forest (once a year) and nodal officer (once in 18 months).
The committee also said that all states where approval under the FC Act has been accorded to more than 500 projects will have to appoint a full time officer not below the rank of the deputy conservator of forest to assist the nodal officer to monitor and ensure compliance to conditions and to ensure timely submission of quarterly report to the central government.
The central government meanwhile will monitor once a year all projects related to mining, hydel, irrigation and multipurpose river and others involving diversion of more than 40 hectares of forest land.
The committee also suggested a third party monitoring through accredited institutions of repute.
"The MoEF will prepare a panel of accredited institutions through a transparent mechanism to monitor compliance," the draft policy said.