Shimla: In its drive to tap each potential unit of hydropower available in Himachal, it is the forests that are bearing the brunt as data shows that in thirty years as much as 6287.55 hectares of forests have been diverted for either constructing hydro power projects or for laying transmission lines.
Data with the forest department recordâ€™s that since 1981-82, a total of 10245.5 hectares of forest lands had been diverted for non forestry purposes by obtaining permissions under Forest Conservation Act.
As many as 180 permissions involving 4028.817 hectares of forest lands were granted for constructing hydro power projects and 97 permissions involving 2258.734 hectares for laying transmission lines under FCA, the data showed.
When contacted RK Gupta, principal chief conservator forests said, â€œlest the state is criss-crossed by transmission lines and more damage to forests is done, the government has taken a decision of laying valley wise power evacuation grids that will pool in power generated by all projects in a basin for onward transmission.â€
Another forest officer differed. On conditions of anonymity he said, â€œforest lands being the cheapest in the state, project developers instead of buying expensive private lands apply for forest lands and the state readily agrees.â€
He put the net asset value of 1 hectare of forest land at about Rs 9 lakhs whereas private land would be worth many time more.
â€œThe very viability of a hydropower project would become untenable if private land has to be bought instead of diverting forest land for the commercial venture,â€ he said.
Whereas over 61% of the forest diversions have taken place just for the hydro power sector, 662 permissions involving 1855 hectares of forests have been diverted for road constructions, 49 permission involving 824 hectares for mining purposes which involves cement plants, 61 permissions for diverting 70 hectares of forest lands for irrigation purposes, 2 permission involving 12 hectares for railways and 283 permissions 1196.5 hectares of forest lands have been diverted for all other purposes since 1981-82, the departmentâ€™s data showed.
Till November, 2011 a total of 1334 FCA permissions stand granted with 1116.295 hectares of forest lands diverted in the year 2010-11 being the biggest chunk in any one year.