Monday, May 09, 2011

IIT, Mandi gets Ministry nod for forest land

The delay in setting up a permanent campus for Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Mandi (in the hilly north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh) due to land unavailability will be a thing of the past. The Environment Ministry on Friday cleared the diversion of 308 acres of forest land for the IIT, which will specialise in "environmentally-sound infrastructure development for the Himalayan region".

The Himachal Pradesh Government will now have to submit a compliance report before the final forest clearance is given. As a part of the compliance, the claims under the forest rights act will need to be settled. The clearance was given after the state government re-worked its proposal to reduce the forest area that was required. This is in line with a recent Environment Ministry order to ensure that only absolutely essential amount of forest land is diverted for non-forest purposes. The earlier proposal for the diversion of 338 acres of forest land had been rejected by the ministry on February 3.

The IIT-Mandi campus will host 8,000 students, 800 faculty members and 1,400 non-teaching staff. The campus will be spread over a total area of 501 acres, of which 308 acres is forest area. Dense forest accounts for 7.5 acres of the total diverted forest land. Forest density in the balance of 300.5 acres is less than 0.1. The ministry has stressed that the dense forest area be not utilised for construction, instead be used for landscaping and beautification.

The Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD), which will set up the IIT, will also be required to undertake compensatory forestation in 618 acres, which is double the land allocated of degraded forest land. This is over and above the money that the government will have to deposit for the diversion of forest land. As a part of the campus plan, the Environment Ministry has asked for the inclusion of a forest office for raising nursery and undertaking horticultural plantation in the campus. Other conditions of the clearance include soil conservation, a minimal tree felling, and protection and conservation of wildlife in the high altitude areas. It has suggested that IIT Mandi explore the possibility of adopting these villages for permanent livelihood alternatives as well as taking care of their fuelwood, fodder, and other needs.

The slow pace of setting up permanent campuses for the eight new IITs at Ropar, Bhubaneswar, Gandhinagar, Hyderabad, Patna, Jodhpur, Mandi and Indore has been a cause of concern for the MHRD. The IIT Gandhinagar campus is stuck as of the 400 acres identified by the Gujarat Government, 200 acres belong to the Union Agriculture Ministry, which is reluctant to hand over this land. Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal has asked state officials to sort out the issue with the Agriculture Ministry.

Source: The Economic Times, May 9, 2011

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