The Center’s ambitious plan to set up 750-bed AIIMS-like institute at Himachal Pradesh’s Bilaspur district has hit a roadblock with a Central panel of the Union Environment Ministry questioning the need for diverting 40 acres of forest land for its construction, of which at least eight acres of forest patch has been allocated for dumping sites. While the State Government has sought 40 acres of forest land, it has already provided 59.724 acres of non-forest land for the project to be spread over 100 acres of area. The project worth Rs 1351 crore will have a medical college with an intake capacity of 100 seats and a nursing college with 60 seats, 20 specialty and super specialty departments including 15 operation theaters to be completed in 48 months. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid its foundation stone in October 2017 at Bilaspur, the native town of Union Health Minister JP Nadda.
However, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Ministry in its meeting on December 19, 2018 deferred the proposal asking the Himachal Pradesh Government to justify need for diverting such a huge patch of green land. It also expressed its reservations over the project proponent’s plan to use eight acres of forest area for two dumping sites (4.5 hectares and 3.5 hectares areas respectively). Sources in the Union Environment Ministry said that the proposed area has around 8430 trees, of which majority are likely to be felled. The proposal will now be discussed by the FAC in a meeting on January 15, 2019. Interestingly, the State Government has proposed compensatory afforestation in the forest land itself in lieu of the forest land it is seeking for the construction of the project. However, officials from the State Government have justified their move, claiming that there is no non-forest government land available in the district Bilaspur as all government land or land over which government has proprietary rights, has been classified as forest land.
“As such, no non-forest land is available for raising compensatory afforestation in lieu of the forest land proposed for the construction of the project,” an official argued. Consequently, compensatory afforestation has been proposed over the forest land, he said. Regarding use of forest land for dumping site, the official said that as majority of the non-forest land is existing on the hill side i.e. above the National Highway which is crossing the proposed site in the middle, it is not possible to develop dumping sites on the upper side of the non-forest land. Moreover, the slope of the non-forest site is not suitable for a dumping site, the official pointed out. The AIIMS-like institutes are being developed by the Center across the States under Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojna (PMSSY) with an aim to correct regional imbalances in the availability of affordable healthcare services and also to augment facilities for quality medical education in the country. – Daily Pioneer