Harmful practices being carried out inside reserve forests

New Delhi: A member of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has drawn the Environment Ministry’s attention to harmful practices like building of rest houses inside reserve forests and its failure in stopping the trend.

“Under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) programme, many harmful forestry practices are being carried out for plantations, clearing and burning of weeds, civil works including plush rest houses, barracks in the core areas of Tiger Reserves, Protected Areas, etc,” a Ministry document quoted NBWL member Biswajit Mohanty as saying.

The issue was discussed recently at the Standing Committee Meeting of NBWL, which was chaired by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

“Such activities impact wildlife and its habitat. There is no monitoring by the MoEF (Ministry of Environment and Forest) about such activities in the forest areas,” it said.

CAMPA, an ambitious central scheme for sustainable forest management, has over Rs 11,000 crore including accrued interest and the money, which had been lying in its bank accounts since 2002.

It was released for partial distribution to states by a Supreme Court ruling 2009, soon after Mr. Ramesh came to office.

The incidents of “harmful forestry practices” are reported from CAMPA beneficiary states of Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, ministry sources said.

Mr. Mohanty, who pushed the agenda before the standing committee said there is “rampant burning of forest undergrowth” to clear them for plantations.

“Similarly, cutting of creepers like bahunia, etc which are useful fodder species for elephants is leading to increase in man elephant conflict,” Mr. Mohanty said.

The Committee should set up a sub-committee comprising of NBWL members, MoEF officers and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) scientists to tour the country in major CAMPA beneficiary states “to verify the harmful plantation practices or other civil works” carried out inside reserve forests, he said.

“This sub-committee can file reports with the MoEF about such activities that imperil wildlife and the MoEF can issue appropriate directions to the states,” he said.

Last month, Mr. Ramesh had said the Ministry was planning to review scheme as he was “horrified” by reports on its implementation in some states.