Aiming for greater consensus among infrastructure ministries on its proposal to keep certain forested areas out of bounds for mining and other activities that could cause irreversible damage, the Prakash Javadekar-led Environment ministry is streamlining and reviewing its proposal to declare pristine forests as ‘inviolate’.
A successor to the controversial go-no-go concept — mooted by then Environment minister Jairam Ramesh that was vetoed by a Group of Ministers amid strong objections by infrastructure ministries — the idea of declaring certain pristine forests as inviolate based on objective parameters was proposed by a MoEF-backed committee headed by former Environment secretary T Chatterjee.
While this committee had come up with six “measurable” parameters to identify ‘inviolate’ areas — forest type, biological richness, wildlife value, forest cover, landscape integrity and hydrological value, it is learnt that the Ministry of Environment & Forests has now decided to prune the number of parameters down to four — wildlife value is proposed to be clubbed with biological richness and hydrological value with forest cover as these parameters were overlapping, said sources.
The move is being made based on the inputs by stakeholder ministries and suggestions from experts. The Coal ministry was one of the first to voice its concerns over the committee’s report, calling for a balance between coal mining and addressing environmental concerns.
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To identify such areas, the report had suggested that India will be divided into 1 km x 1 km grids and each grid will be scored on the six parameters. If the average score of a grid exceeds 70 out of 100, it shall be labelled ‘inviolate’ and if a majority of grids in a mining block are ‘inviolate’, the block too will be labelled so.
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