CAG raps J&K govt for using land for non-forest purpose

CAG raps J&K govt for using land for non-forest purpose

The CAG has pulled up the state forest ministry for allegedly diverting 1,883 hectares of forest land for non-forest purposes in violation of rules in this district of Jammu and Kashmir.

The report released by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India this month also found that Jammu accounts for 25 per cent of forest land (767 sqkm) — below the prescribed level of 33 per cent as per the National Forest Policy.

Also, out of 25 per cent forest land, only 1,063 hectares (one per cent) has been demarcated so far, the report stated.

The records showed that 1883.23 hectares of forest land has been diverted for non-forest purposes between 1991-92 to 2010-11 in Jammu district, the report for the year ending March 2011 said.

Also, no land has been brought under forest cover in lieu of forest land diverted, the report stated.

As per the State Forest Conservation Act, 1997, twice the area of forest land diverted for non-forest purpose should be afforested, it said.

Possession transferred

“Further, possession of the land was transferred to user agencies without clearing the payment from them in contravention of the rules,” it said.

As a result, Rs 56.07 crore was outstanding against various agencies on account of compensation for the period ranging between six to 288 months, it said.

According to rules, the possession of forest land diverted for non-forestry purposes should not be handed over to the user agency till all payments due are deposited, it said.
Divisional forest officer (DFO), state forest department, Jammu, stated in reply to the CAG’s queries that recovery of compensation amount would be taken up with user-agencies.

The DFO, however, said fresh forest areas could not be raised due to non-allotment of funds.

“The reply was not accepted as the department should not have, in violation of rules, handed over possession till all the payment was deposited by the indenting department,” the CAG report said.

The CAG indicted the department for dismal performance to reduce degraded area, recovery of compensation and increase of forest cover.

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