Hyderabad: The Bharatiya Janata Party, under fire from conservation experts over the past few years on its government’s track record on environment protection, appears to be misleading people on its environmental credentials in its 2019 election manifesto. The brief ‘Forest and Environment’ section in its 2019 manifesto shows that the Bharatiya Janata Party relied on the slick play of words to prove its environment protection record, particularly with reference to forest cover in the country.
The BJP manifesto says: “We have ensured speed and effectiveness in issuing forest and environmental clearances for eligible projects due to which we have added around 9,000 sq. km to the forest cover of the country. We are committed to maintaining this pace through the adoption of cleaner practises to make our nation a greener country.”
What the BJP actually means is that it allowed diversion of 9,000 sq km of forest land, with all its associated flora and fauna, for various projects in the country in its five-year term. As required by law, any State that seeks use of forest land for non-forestry purposes must provide an equal extent of land for compensatory afforestation (CA). It is this 9,000 sq km of land identified for CA activities, that BJP claims to have “added” to the “forest cover” of the country.
According to some experts in matters related to CA activities, in most instances, land identified for this purpose is mostly severely degraded and in many cases, unsuitable for tree growth. Also, they say the claim that forest cover has been added is a blatantly false claim as five years is too short a period within which CA land is identified, plantation work is taken up that results in actual tree cover. However, some States are more diligent in ensuring proper land is allotted for compensatory afforestation and taking up tree plantation on a massive scale.
What the BJP has done, according to one expert, is that it is only talking about land set aside for compensatory afforestation while completely ignoring the actual loss of productive forest areas spread over 9,000 sq km, and robbing wildlife of their natural homes.