New Delhi: Amid criticism that more forest areas are being diverted for industrial and mining projects since she took charge, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan on Friday claimed the rate of diversion during her tenure was less than half of the average during last 32 years.
"The area of forest land diverted during this one year period is 44 percent of the average annual rate of diversion (35,775 hectares per annum) during last 32 years of the existence of the Forest Conservation Act," the Ministry said in a release here.
The release titled, "Forest Clearance Approvals granted from 13.07.2011 to 12.07.2012 by Jayanthi Natarajan as Minister for Environment and Forests" said that the Ministry has accorded approval to 1126 proposals involving diversion of 15,639 hectares of forest land during this period.
Natarajan assumed her charge as the Minister on July 13, 2011.
It said 11,44,861 hectares of forest land has been diverted during the last 32 years, since the Forest Conservation Act came into force.
The proposals cleared by Natarajan include 993 proposals of central and state government departments and Public Sector Units involving diversion of 10,268 hectares of forest land and 133 proposals of private firms and persons involving diversion of 5,371 hectares of forest land, the release said.
The Ministry also said that it has accorded environmental clearance to 209 development projects in the sectors of industry (Steel & Cement), Thermal Power, River Valley and Hydro-electric, Coal and Non-Coal Mining and National Highways during this period.
"Out of 209 projects accorded environmental clearance, 88 projects are in the industry sector (66 Steel & 22 Cement), 29 in the Thermal Power, 06 in the River Valley and Hydro -electric, 29 Coal Mining, 25 Non-Coal Mining and 32 National Highways," it said.
This week, NGO Greenpeace had alleged that its mapping study shows that 13 coalfields in the central Indian landscape alone will destroy more than 1.1 million hectares of pristine woodland.
Hours before the start of the UN biodiversity conference in Hyderabad, Greenpeace had asked the government to "demonstrate leadership" by protecting the rich biodiversity that lies within its own borders.
It had alleged that the government`s mining policy is destroying the country`s biodiversity and tiger habitats and sought a relook into the `massive` expansion plan of coal fields in forest areas.