Redefining forest: Govt to consult ADCs again

SHILLONG:  Forest and Environment Minister Prestone Tynsong said that the State Government will be able to take a call on the demand to re-define ‘forest’ again only after holding a consultation with the three Autonomous District Councils.
“We had drawn the current definition after taking the views of the district councils and the stakeholders. All the three district councils had proposed to the State Government that only forest areas covering five hectares of land should be considered as forest,” Tynsong said while taking to newsmen after meeting the members of the Meghalaya Eco-Friendly Student’s Union (MEFSU) here on Tuesday.
Interestingly, he added that the department had plans to recognize areas with three hectares of forest cover as forests but had to opt for the current definition in order to accommodate the views of the district councils and stakeholders.
The current definition describes forest as a compact or continuous tract of minimum four hectares of land, irrespective of ownership where more than 250 naturally grown trees per hectares with a girth size of 15 cm and higher diameter at breast height (DBH) over bark are present or more than 100 naturally grown bamboo clumps per hectares are presentin case of tracts containing predominantly sympodial bamboo.
Despite this definition, Tynsong informed that the State Government had also come up with a notification which made it mandatory for obtaining forest clearance for any kind of project. He also informed that the Ministry of Forest and Environment had recently passed an order that forest clearance is a must for any project even if it concerns “zero hectares of land”.
“The State Government will not allow the misuse of forest land at any cost,” the Forest and Environment Minister asserted.
Meanwhile, the MEFSU has demanded that the existing definition of ‘forest’  be substituted by the definition as mentioned in the Khasi-Jaintia Hills Autonomous District (Management and Control of Forests) Act, 1958.
According to the United Khasi-Jaintia Hills Autonomous District (Management & Conservation offorests) Act, 1958, an area with not less than 25 trees per acre, reserved or any other forest produce growing on such area, which have been or are capable of being exploited for purposes of business and trade will be termed as forest.
“This is a better and stricter definition of forest as compared to the one adopted by the Government,” MEFSU president Rangdajied Marwein said.

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