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Why making zoo building a forestry activity is a concern

Dehradun: The decision of the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) to make the construction of zoos on forest land a "forestry activity" has evoked strong reactions from senior retired forest officers, environmentalists, and wildlife activists in Uttarakhand. Experts fear this will open up secluded wild habitats to tourists and disrupt forest ecosystems since lesser clearances from wildlife boards or expert agencies of the central government will be needed for building public utilities and doing concretization works inside forests. Earlier, when building zoos on forest land was classified as a "non-forestry" activity, public utilities like canteen, toilets, etc. would require a slew of clearances from wildlife boards and expert bodies of the central government.
"The area requirement for various components of zoos, such as parking, recreation, water bodies, roads, restrooms, boating, restaurants, power supply, research center, staff rooms, etc. should not be exaggerated and authority concerned may ensure legitimate forest area requirement for such components", reads an excerpt from the "don'ts section" of the communique issued by the MoEFCC on June 8, a copy of which is with. The order also encourages "conserving natural terrain and species and avoiding too much human interference", saying establishments that support in-situ conservation (conservation of endangered species in their habitat) will be encouraged and "only degraded forest land, i.e. with a crown density below 40 percent, may be used for the establishment of the zoo".
Activists however called this a "half-baked" approach aimed at getting more revenue out of leisure activities. 
Pointing out how recently, CAG had detected misuse of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) funds for the establishment of two zoos in Kashmir, activities said they feared the same will happen in Uttarakhand in the name of zoos and safaris. "This will allow poaching into CAMPA funds. Already, Haldwani zoo and the Pakhro tiger safari project are facing allegations of misuse of CAMPA and other forest funds. The move by the government is simply going to add to the problem," said Renu Paul, a Doon-based activist.
She pointed out it's a "triple loss", as Forest Conservation Act (FCA) 1980 has been diluted, and CAMPA funds will not be used for afforestation. "Malsi zoo in Dehradun is a case in point. It's clearly being expanded deep inside a reserve forest. Now, more forests will be cleared to make way for construction activities in zoos. Funds meant for afforestation will be used to make enclosures for wild animals, museums, photo galleries, cemented statues, etc," Paul added.
Senior retired forest officers also pointed out "the irony of using funds meant for afforestation for tree felling." "The most questionable part right now is that tree felling will technically be a 'forestry activity'. The earlier rule of only 15% land in a zoo being available for public utility now stands null and void, which means any amount of space can be used for infrastructure development as well as zoos," said a former officer, who did not wish to be named.

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