Survey of deemed forest areas to be completed by December-end: Minister

Survey of deemed forest areas to be completed by December-end: Minister

The State government is likely to complete a joint survey of deemed forest areas in the State by this month-end, Forest Minister Ramanath Rai said on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters, he said the survey was being conducted jointly by the Revenue and the Forest departments to ascertain the status of deemed forests. The aim is to protect the interest of those living on forest fringes.

The survey will find out whether those areas are actually covered with trees or human settlement. Findings of the survey will be submitted to the Supreme Court and the Union government, he added.

The State government will take measures within the legal framework to protect the interest of small farmers in the wake of the Supreme Court direction to clear forest encroachments. Small farmers, who are said to have encroached less than three acres of forest land, will not be evicted. Moreover, the government is planning to allot alternative revenue lands in case of eviction, he said.

On the controversial Kasturirangan report on protection of the Western Ghats, Rai said the government will follow in the footsteps of the Kerala government on the issue.

“In fact, Karnataka will take a tougher stand and will not let down people living in the Ghats region. A Cabinet sub-committee set up to look into the issue will soon finalise its stand. The Centre has asked the State to submit its recommendations on the report by December-end, he added.

The minister said the increase in the population of wild animals was one of the main reasons for increasing incidents of man-animal conflict in the State. For instance, Karnataka has over 6,000 elephants and more than 300 tigers. So, these animals stray into human habitations and attack people.

“Another reason for wild animals straying into human habitations is shrinking forest areas. The only remedy for this problem is clearing forest encroachments. But the department draws criticism when it initiates steps to clear encroachments. Hence, the task has become difficult,” he pointed out.

Rai noncommittal on Kambala ban

Minister Ramanath Rai chose not to react to a question whether the State government would ban Kambala (buffalo race) as directed by the Supreme Court. When reporters raised the issue, Rai merely said the government had nothing to do with the decision of not allowing Kambala.

The race has been stopped in Udupi dis trict as per the direction of the National Animal Welfare Board, he pointed out. He, however, said Kambala was a traditional sport and that he himself had organised it for 10 years in the past in Dakshina Kannada district.

“Even Ministers Vinay Kumar Sorake and Abhaychandra Jain had organised it. It was Maneka Gandhi (Union Minister for Women and Child Development) who raised objections against Kambala,” he added.

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