Govt plans to buy 'unproductive' private land amid forests

The Forest department is mulling over purchasing private land nestled in thick forests.

In many instances, the owners of such lands are finding it difficult to manage them. If the owners are farmers, it has proved difficult for them to undertake agriculture activities there. On the other hand, such lands are also not available for afforestation.

Department sources, however, said that the lands would not be acquired forcefully, but would be taken only if the owners want to sell them on their own free volition. Those willing to sell their lands have to submit suitable documents and a letter expressing their willingness to give up their properties.

Most private lands in forest areas are in the districts of Kodagu, Chikmagalur, Mysore, Chamarajanagar, Dakshina Kannada and Uttara Kannada.

The government has formed the ‘committee for the acquisition of forest enclosures’ to oversee the purchase process. It comprises the additional chief secretary of the Forest department, principal secretary, the principal chief conservator of forests and the head of the land records department.

The purchase rate would be decided at the government level, the sources said, adding that there was no question of providing rehabilitation to those selling their properties to the government.

The land rate would be decided based on its dimension, the prevailing rate for the location and value of the trees grown on the said land. The owners can sell the land only if the rate offered is acceptable to them.

There are a number of private lands in Brahmagiri, Padanalk Ghat and Patti Ghat areas of the forests in Kodagu district. The owners face problems galore such as elephant attacks, lack of access paths, power connection and paucity of agriculture workers. The end result is that many such lands have fallen into disuse and no private party is interested in buying them.

The owners, who many a time reside on the lands, have another problem to contend with. Schools for their children are at a faraway location. Building houses is also a problem in such places. Hence, selling the lands is a better option for the owners, says Brijeshkumar Dikshit, chief conservator of forests of the Kodagu range.

Dikshit said many farmers in the Brahmagiri forests around Bhagamandala had come forward to sell their lands, that comes up to 500 hectares. The officer said that the government might fix the rates soon and initiate the process to purchase such lands.

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