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How To Steal A Forest

How To Steal A Forest

Sanctuary Asia has been waging a battle against elements within government, including the Ministry of Environment and Forests at the Centre, who are cold-bloodedly turning our natural heritage to private cash. 

For several years now, despite a promise of transparency, we see more and more murky deals and skulduggery taking place…all resulting in damage to our forests to push through lucrative industrial-scale projects. Very often even the Prime Minister’s Office turns a blind eye to such damage, often going so far as to endorse them, because powerful officials and politicians with influence have little understanding or concern for environmental impacts.

In a letter dated May 22, 2013 Biswajit Mohanty, Member National Board for Wildlife and Secretary, Wildlife Society of Orissa, wrote to the Director General of Forests, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), to expose how contractors and promoters of are luring retired government officials to do their bidding and lend support for dams, mines, roads and other ecologically harmful schemes, in exchange for lucrative “consultancies”, which are often little more than thinly disguised inducements.

Credit: Jayesh Paranjape

Given the corruption scandals breaking across India today, this trend of bartering credibility for payoffs subverts good governance and transparency. Disturbingly regulatory authorities and agencies including MOEF’s Forest Advisory Committees and Environment Appraisal Committees are peopled by very pliable “wildlife experts”, who also work as consultants who work in tandem with a coterie of friends and former associates who actually write plans and Environment Assessment Impact (EIA) reports. According to Mohanty “over 300 plans have been prepared by retired forest officers of Odisha Forest Department to obtain forest/environment clearance for mining, industry and irrigation projects in forest areas.” Ironically many such “experts’ have never even worked in the wildlife sector as they were earlier employed in commercial divisions that had little to do with ecological issues or wildlife habitats.

This is a clear case of conflict of interest. All too often the wildlife management plans for large projects are written by retired forest officers and are later evaluated and approved by their former colleagues who may have been their subordinates, though they currently hold senior positions as Chief Conservators or Principal Chief Conservators of Forests.

Credit: Samsul Huda Patgiri

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