New Delhi: Clearance of forests in Naxal-hit areas to effectively combat Maoists hiding in these regions has led to a decrease in the overall green cover in the country, the Lok Sabha was informed on Monday.
Environment and Forest Minister Jayanthi Natarajan accepted in the Lok Sabha during Question Hour that there has been a "marginal decrease" in the forest cover in the country due to cutting down of trees in the Naxal-affected areas.
Arjun Roy (JD-U) maintained that the forest cover was declining in the country and 180 km of jungles were cut down in two districts of Andhra Pradesh alone. He said attributing removal of green cover to the Naxal menace was unfair and demanded that tribals and the local people should be involved in all forest development activities.
In reply to another query, Natarajan said no afforestation fund has been given to NGOs and expenditure of all allocated money is being audited and accounted for.
"No afforestation funds are given to NGOs," she said, adding her ministry and the state governments were directly involved in afforestation activities.
However, Roy countered this and quoted an Inspector General of Forests to say NGOs were given funds for afforestation but they had failed to meet the set targets.
Natarajan insisted that her ministry has been asking the CAG and others concerned to audit all expenditure, including that for buying jeeps and computers for the forest department. This includes the Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) funds.