The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has rapped Odisha for allotting forest land for industrial usage, violating the forest laws.
The state has allotted about 267 acres of forest land valued Rs.2,601 crore to industries in the state without obtaining requisite clearance from the ministry of forest and environment, said a latest CAG report tabled in the state assembly.
“As per Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, no state government or other authority shall make, except with prior approval of the Central government, any order directing that any forest land or any portion thereof may be used for any non-forest purpose,” it said.
The report tabled Monday found that in Chandaka and Mahisapat industrial estates, the forest land was allotted to 139 industrial units as of March 2012 without obtaining requisite clearances.
“In its bid to rush for industrialization, the state has committed blatant violation of forest laws which has imperiled the future of wild life in the state. Strong actions should be taken against the officers who permitted this,” Biswajit Mohanty, former member of National Board for Wildlife, told IANS.
The CAG report said the state-owned Odisha Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) replied in August 2013 that it has submitted forest diversion proposal for forest land in Chandaka industrial estate to the state’s principal chief conservator of forest.
“Thus, forest land was irregularly allotted to industries without the approval of government of India,” said the report a copy of which is in possession of IANS.
In respect to the forest land in Mahisapat, the local authorities stated in August 2012 that the local revenue divisional commissioner has been requested to change the record of rights from forest to industry.
“However, the fact remained that the forest land was used for non-forest purposes without de-notification by the union government,” the CAG stated in its report.
Located on the outskirts of state capital Bhubaneswar, Chandaka is a wildlife sanctuary and known as a pachyderm country.
Spread over an area of 193.39 sq km, it is also a home to a number of threatened wild animals and birds.
Mahisapat, located near the district headquarters town of Dhenkanal, about 80 km from Bhubaneswar, is also a prime elephant habitat.