65,105 Ha zudpi land notified as forest, no proposal cleared for deforestation

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 12 Jun 2018 10:08:49



By Kartik Lokhande,

■ March 7, 2014 --‘The Hitavada’ headline read“Zudpi Jungle:More loss than gain for Vidarbha”. The first paragraph of the story under the said headline was as follows: “Devil liesin details,it is said.The ‘decision’ announced by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and claim that the years-long Zudpi Jungle issue had been resolved providing a huge respite to Vidarbha region’s projects, is actually a smart ploy to inflict more loss than gain on the region.”

■ December 14, 2015 -- Sudhir Mungantiwar, Forest and Finance and Planning Minister of Maharashtra, told the Legislative Assembly during reply toadebate on supplementary demands: “The issue of Zudpi Jungle has since long proven to be a big hurdle in allround development of Vidarbha region. A total of 1,78,000 hectares of land was spread across six districts of Vidarbha under the category of ‘Zudpi Jungle’.The Government has divided the land into two categories, and this will make available 86,409 hectares of zudpi land for deforestation to pave way for various projects.”

■ May 2018 -- Of a total 92,115.85 hectares of Zudpi Jungle area to be notified as forest, as much as 65,105 hectares has been notified.However, of the total 86,409.32 hectares of Zudpi Jungle land to be made available deforestation ‘to pave way for various projects’,proposals for only 4,824.82hectares are with Forest Department. In effect, Zudpi Jungle land has not been freed for deforestation. THESE three paragraphs above tell the story.

However, forthe sake of clarity, it needs to be told that in four years since the announcement of the then Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, things have not actually moved for Vidarbha region as faras availability of Zudpi Jungle land for deforestation and developmental projects is concerned. On record, however,Vidarbha has lost 65,105 hectares of Zudpi Jungle, for, it has been notified as forest that cannot be used for any developmental project.

Since 2014, when the much-touted‘decision’was taken‘to give boost to development of Vidarbha region’,there has been change of guard in State Government and Central Government.But,Vidarbha’swoes on this count continue. For, many of the irrigation projects and developmental projects in the region continue to suffer because of technical tangles created due to forest conservation and related issues.

As far as official data is concerned, of a total 92,115.85 hectares of Zudpi Jungle land that was proposed to be notified as forest, total 65,105 hectares has been actually notified. Maximum of this has been notified in Bhandara and Gondia districts , followed by Wardha, Nagpur , Gadchiroli, and Chandrapur districts. Of the total land notified as forest, 16,309 hectares was notified previously.Total 12,056 hectareshas been notified at the level of Divisional Commissionerate.

And, the highest 36,739 hectares has been notified at the level of the Government. On the other hand, Zudpi Jungle land has not been cleared for deforestation.Of a total 86,409.32 hectares of Zudpi Jungle land identified for deforestation,Revenue Department has submitted proposals for onl y 7,140.81 hectares. Of these too, pro - posals for deforestation of only 4,824.82 hectares are with Forest Department.

Where have the other proposals gone,even the senior officers in Revenue Department are wondering. According to officials familiar with the issue, “Every time, Revenue Department has submitted proposals to Forest Department regarding Zudpi Jungle land to be cleared for deforestation,ithas returned the proposals pointing out one or the other shortcoming.

Meanwhile, the developmental projects needing fragments of Zudpi Jungle land identified for deforestation, are suffering in the region that has conserved forests for years together.” A head of Monsoon Session of State Legislature, once again, the administrative machinery is busy collecting data inthis regard. For,the issue had come up for discussion during Winter Session of State Legislatur e held in December 2015, and it may come up for discussion now too. I n 2015, when the matter was raised in Legislative Assembly, as mentioned above, the Forest Minister had stated,“Sofar,Revenue Department has submitted 342 proposals. But, as the proposals had short comings, the officials have been askedt ofile compliances.

On our part, action is in progress to clear the hurdles in the way of Vidarbha development. We hope that the process is completed by April 2016. If the Revenue Department proposals are not received till then, we will press for a time frame.” Sadly, the latest data reveals that things have not moved much. Sadly, as predicted, the entire episode is proving to be more loss than gain for Vidarbha. Will something happen during Monsoon Session of State Legislature, which is being held in Vidarbha after 47 years?