Now, pvt land can also be deemed forests

Owners may oppose it as all activities will require department nod

 The Forest department will embark on a survey of all forest, revenue and private lands to demarcate ‘deemed forests’ in the State.

In keeping with a 1996 Supreme Court judgement, the State government will now include private lands as deemed forests if they meet the criteria it has laid down.The Forest department, in a meeting on May 24, had stated that those lands, which had 50 naturally grown trees per hectare, over and above the height of 30 cm, will be considered as deemed forest. 

If the land has 100 trees planted per hectare, above the height of 30 cm, it will again be considered as deemed forest.

The State government had previously set up a committee, as per the Supreme Court order, to categorise the various forest expanses in the State. However, the committee failed to adhere to the apex court’s timeline and was pulled up by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) in 2002. Subsequently, the State reconstituted an Expert Committee-I to identify different categories of forests in the State. The committee identified 9,94,881 hectares of land as deemed forest in its report.

Not satisfied with this classification, wherein several statutory forests were considered deemed forests, the government has now reconstituted the three committees to relook into the expert committee report and add more areas to the deemed forests. The reconstitution of the committees was notified by the Forest department on May 15.

Accordingly, the three committees which have been formed are District Level Committee, Revenue Divisional Level Committee and State Level Committee. The committees will primarily be conducting field visits and verifying whether lands classified as deemed forests are still under the same classification or need to be changed. It will also consider adding new areas, if they were previously not under the deemed forests category.

Forest department officials state that the committees will be looking into disputed territories between Forest and Revenue departments. It is said that a lot of land, which was developed by the Forest department over the past several years, is still under the purview of the Revenue department.

Sources state that the committees may find themselves in the firing line, when they go on field visits, as private citizens will oppose their land being considered deemed forest. Government officials state that once private land is considered deemed forest, all activities on the said land will require mandatory prior approval from the Forest department.

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