Mums the word for Natarajan as report on shrinking forest cover gathers dust

Written by Kirtika Suneja | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 11 2012, 08:00am hrs
The Indian forest cover has shrunk. And there is no one to announce the data, as environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan has not found time to release it.

The silence is in tune with the way the ministry of environment and forests has worked in the last five months after the new minister took over. The release of the India State of Forest Report-2011 was deferred in December. Natarajan is yet to set a date for the release of the report, a key component of macro-economic policy-making for the government and the industry. Natarajan has maintained her silence even after returning from the ministerial level climate change conference at Durban in early December.

The report is prepared by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), Dehradun, every alternate year. Senior officials in the ministry say that the crucial report will now be released as per the ministers convenience. Officials from the forest department say the report, based on satellite images, shows a marginal decline in Indias forest cover.

As per the 2009 report, Indias forest cover increased by 728 sq km during 2005-07, a marginal rise of 0.03%. Overall, 21.02% of the countrys geographical area is now under green cover. In the 10 years, forest cover in the country increased by 3.31 million hectares, showing an average 0.46% increase every year.

FSI officials were informed that the release of the report would be delayed only at the very end of last month. They had left Dehradun for Delhi for the release of the State of the Forest report, but had to go back.

After she returned from Durban, Natarajan was to make a suo motu statement in Parliament and address the media. The former couldnt happen because of other important debates while she cancelled the latter.

The environment ministry, earlier under Jairam Ramesh, had hogged the limelight for several reasons including frequently hosting events. Ramesh had also regularly written lengthy letters to his Cabinet counterparts and various chief ministers about projects that were approved or rejected, sparking controversies galore. However, the ministry is no longer the battleground of industry versus environment and is instead back to the shroud of secrecy it wore two years ago.