Tishyarakshit Chatterjee Committee

This article deals with the Inviolate Forest Areas and the  Tishyarakshit Chatterjee Committee.

Tishyarakshit Chatterjee Panel Report

Tishyarakshit Chatterjee committee has submitted its draft report that looks to give the demarcation legal teeth by notifying inviolate patches under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The formula and criteria recommended by the Chatterjee panel will mean that areas within 1km of parks and sanctuaries and critical migratory corridors linking wildlife habitats would almost by default be regarded as inviolate. The strong pro-environment criteria recommended by the committee takes more into consideration hydrological values of forests like whether green patches are catchment areas for rivers or feed wetlands. This will also command weight in demarcating the area not to be mined.

Recently, the environment ministry has come up with a draft proposal (as per recommendations of Tishyarakshit Chatterjee Committee) for ‘inviolate forest areas’. If this proposal is accepted, large swathes of healthy forests, including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, tiger reserves and wildlife corridors, would be out of bounds for all mining activities (not just coal excavation). This draft has listed the criteria for identifying forest patches where mining should be banned. The draft comes following the group of ministers (GoM) on coal’s decision to junk the no-go policy of the ministry of environment and forests. The GoM instead asked the ministry to delineate ‘inviolate forest areas’ based on a new set of guidelines.

Some points:

  • The proposed guidelines include forest cover, forestry type, biological richness and wildlife value of areas under review, hydrological and socio-economic benefits. These are all tough criteria that can be difficult to overlook while granting mining rights.
  • Areas located within direct draining catchment of streams utilized as water sources for projects would automatically be excluded. Boundary areas of important wetlands bigger than 10 hectares and storage reservoirs for irrigation, water supply or power projects too would be off limits.
  • The committee has recommended that in the first phase, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) mark areas on the basis of wildlife and forestry-related criteria. Then, state and central agencies along with the FSI collect and generate data on the three other parameters — hydrological, socio-economic and aesthetic values.

Once this exercise is complete, the ministry would notify areas under the Environment Protection Act after taking the views of state governments and other stakeholders, the panel has advised.