HP NEWS SERVICE
Shillong, Jul 1: The draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 notification has many problems and one that is peculiar to Meghalaya is that if it comes into force, some clauses in it will create a serious setback to the conservation efforts that have been going on over the years.
This is because in Meghalaya, unlike other states, the government owns only about 5 per cent of the forests in the State, the rest being owned by private parties and individuals.
The government has managed to expand its conservation work only by persuading the forest owners to voluntarily hand over their forests which are rich in wildlife for protection to the forest department.
Thus, over the years, the forest department has declared these areas which are actually owned by individual people as Community Reserves under the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972.
Sources said that under the draft EIA 2020 these areas will now be stringently pulled into the category of ‘Protected Areas’ as clause 30 of Para 3 in the draft says that any works or projects of B1 category being taken up within 10 to 5 kms of the boundaries of protected areas will have to seek Environmental Clearance from the Centre. Under the EIA 2006 in force at the moment, the clearances were obtained at the level of the State itself.
Meghalaya has 70 such Community Reserves. Sources said that if such restrictions are imposed on these Community Reserves it will have the adverse effect of dissuading people from giving their forests for protection as wildlife habitats. This will be a disaster for the State which hardly has any areas under the state forests as the owners would be worried about the added restrictions.
Imposing such restrictions in itself is a step towards making it more difficult for projects to be installed near the sanctuaries and forest reserves as the fear is that it could have the opposite effect on these private owners of ‘protected areas’ who are likely to be wary of increased bureaucracy.
An official who requested anonymity and who is worried about this aspect said, “This is about our wildlife. People have generously handed over to us for protection large chunks of forest land. If we impose too many restrictions, they will shy away. All our conservation efforts will go to waste.”
He felt that the draft notification will have to see how this particular issue can be solved so that the contribution of such people can be recognised and incorporated in the new amendments.
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