'Panel on deemed forest land to meet within a week'

The district-level committee formed to do a reality check of the deemed forest land in Kodagu district will convene its first meeting in a week and is likely to submit a comprehensive report to the government within six months.

The committee chaired by the deputy commissioner comprises of the deputy conservator of forest, deputy director of land records and officers from revenue and forest departments. 

In order to verify the report submitted by an experts committee on deemed forest in 2002, the State government has formed district committee in district level, zonal committee in revenue level and state committee in state level. 

According to sources, the district committee will conduct a survey in the district and prepare a report on deemed forest scenario in Kodagu. The functioning of the district committee will be supervised by the zonal committee and state committee on a time bound manner and give suggestions as and when required.

What is deemed forest

If a land has the features of forest, where trees are grown outside the purview of government recognised forest land, it is called as deemed forest. The experts committee formed in 2002 had put the deemed forest land figure in the State at 9,94,881 hectare. About 69,205 hectare deemed forest land identified in Kodagu district, also comprises of Bane, Paisari, Kumki Malai, C and D land and plantation. 

It all started with the Supreme Court directing all states to provide information about the forest land, during the hearing of Godavarman Thirumalapad case in 1995. As per the order, the Karnataka government formed the first experts committee, which submitted the report to the government on April 2, 1997.

While submitting the report before the apex court, the government stated that it has completed the process of identifying the area which has been officially declared as forest land. The government requested additional time for identifying the forest land which has not been officially declared. 

On observing the delay by the Karnataka government in submitting the report, the Central Empowered Committee of the SC took the government to task, following which the government revised the experts committee.

This second committee identified 33,24,854 hectare land as notified forest and 9,94,881 hectare as deemed forest. The committee, in fact, included even the barren forest land as deemed forest. It also included C and D land, Bane and Paisari.

Due to identifying even Paisari land as deemed forest in various districts including Kodagu, the government is neither able to take up various projects in this land, nor it can make sites to be distributed to poor. Even the work on providing basic facilities like construction of road can not be taken up. 

In several cases, the revenue land (Paisari) which has been sanctioned to beneficiaries under Akrama Sakrama, is also considered in the list of deemed forest, due to which RTC can not be made in the name of beneficiaries. To solve the impeding problem the new committee has been formed for conducting a joint survey.

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