A total of 554.3 square kilometres of forest area in the country has been diverted for non-forestry purposes in the last three years, government data presented in Lok Sabha showed.
Mining accounted for the diversion of the maximum, 112.78 sq km, of forest land, it revealed
The government okayed the diversion of 100.07 sq km of forest land for road construction and 97.27 sq km for irrigation facilities, according to data presented to the House by Union Minister of State for Environment Ashwini Kumar Choubey on Monday.
The Centre approved the diversion of 69.47 sq km of forest land for defence projects, 53.44 sq km for hydel projects, 47.40 sq km for laying of transmission lines and 18.99 sq km for railways in the last three years.
The government allowed the diversion of 195.87 sq km of forest land in 2019; 175.28 sq km in 2020 and 183.18 sq km in 2021.
However, according to the Forest Survey of India, the total forest cover of the country has increased by 12,294 square kilometres in the last seven years.
The latest India State of Forest Report says the country’s forest cover increased by 1,540 sq km between 2019 and 2021.
Compensatory afforestation is carried out in lieu of forest land diversion.
According to the guidelines issued under the Forest Conservation Act 1980, compensatory afforestation is to be raised on suitable non-forest land, equivalent to the area proposed for diversion, at the cost of the user agency.