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Uttarakhand
Centre nod to state govt to use upto five-hectare forest land in flood-hit areas
18 November 2014
Dehradun, 18/November/2014 (ITNN)>>>> In what is being seen as a boost to relief and rehabilitation work in the state, the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) on Monday permitted the state government to utilize up to five hectares of forest land for carrying out development activities in flood-hit areas. Earlier, the upper limit for transfer of forest cover in these areas was one hectare. 

The decision, which will come into force with immediate effect, would especially aid construction and widening of roads in deluge-hit areas, government sources told TOI. "We had been pursuing the issue for a long time since delay in getting clearances from the Centre was a major bottleneck," said chief secretary N Ravi Shankar. 

Chief minister Harish Rawat, who had met PM Modi in New Delhi almost a month ago with a charter of demands for Uttarakhand, said the move would "empower the state's relief efforts." "I am happy the Union government has agreed to our request. Over 20 infrastructure projects have been pending because we could not get clearance from the MoEF. Work had almost come to a standstill in many districts. We will now ensure that broadening of roads in these places is taken up on priority," he said. 

Incidentally, the worst-hit areas in last year's flash-floods included districts like Rudraprayag, Chamoli, Uttarkashi and Bageshwar . Many experts had cited deforestation as one of the major reasons for the floods. As per data released by the MoEF in 2013, 44,868 ha of forestland had been cleared for non-forest use in Uttarakhand since 1980. 

Of this, a maximum of 9,500 ha had been diverted for construction of roads. The largest number of development projects that required forest diversion were in Chamoli district, which was one of the districts that was most affected by the floods.