Himachal Pradesh, can lose up to 20,000 trees, thanks to obvious error by the state forest department, which has given the green light to a power transmission corridor in a highly sensitive ecological area.
The forest department has recently allowed Jaypee Power Grid Ltd (JPL), a joint venture between Jaiprakash Hydro-Power Corporation Ltd and the electricity grid of India Ltd., to set the power transmission corridor in the district of Kinnaur Karcham to Abdulhapur in Haryana.
The 230-mile corridor extension will cost around Rs.932 crore.A senior forest department official told IANS on condition of anonymity that it was a maturing on the part of the Department of JPL in the overhead forest area.
"The forest department was caught in a piquant situation where he left JPL to put transmission lines on the left bank of Satluj river, which is under a cover of a thick forest, while the right hand is almost sterile," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
"I just want to stop by the forest department, over 20,000 trees, stands the ax," he said.JPL has submitted its proposal to the forest department for the diversion of forest located on the left bank of the river for the construction of the corridor of power.
The department apparently sent the proposal to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (møffe) for final approval, without considering the impact of the transfer of forests.Acting on recommendations from the state government, the ministry also gave its consent to the runner.
State Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Vinay Tandon admitted that the laying of transmission lines on the left bank of the river would cut more trees on the other side."The moment we approached møffe (to move their transmission lines to avoid deforestation maximum), JPL had got the green signal from the ministry," said Tandon.
He said 320 hectares of forest are being redirected to the project.Additional Chief Secretary (Forests) Avaya Shukla also acknowledged that it was a mistake by the forest department.
"Between 15,000 and 20,000 trees will be fired now. But if the lines go through the other side (the river), loss of forests is only 10 percent of the total estimated loss," said Shukla.
A source in the forest department, said JPL had chosen the left bank of the river, as construction costs were higher on the right side.
"From the right bank was not connected to the road infrastructure development as roads and bridges, increasing the cost of laying lines of 100 crore rupees. JPL So she opted for the left bank," the source.
Environmentalists Ranjit Singh Negi, a former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, called it legalized plunder of forest wealth in the name of hydropower use.
"A large number of mega and small hydroelectric plants, which are emerging throughout the state, especially in Kinnaur district, is devouring trees and destruction of natural water resources. The government is playing with nature," he said.
Negi associated with him Lok Jagriti cuff, a conglomerate of over 20 task forces that focus on the concerns of tribal Kinnaur about the dangers to the environment.
Estimates from the forest department, over 9,000 hectares of forest land have hitherto been used for non-forest uses. Of this total, 7,000 hectares are used for hydroelectric power.Shukla, but said the Government would be much tougher, while the conversion of forest for development purposes.
"No new hydroelectric project will be sanctioned more than 3,000 meters in the state. The whole area should be declared environmentally sensitive to the protection of flora and fauna of the Himalayas," he said.