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National Green Tribunal directs state government to protect forest characteristic of gomala land

National Green Tribunal (NGT) has told the state government to evict encroachers and retain the forest-like characteristic of the 70 acres of revenue land.
Last Updated : 13 May 2024, 09:50 IST
Last Updated : 13 May 2024, 09:50 IST

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Bengaluru: In an order that harks back to the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in the Godavarman case, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has told the state government to evict encroachers and retain the forest-like characteristic of the 70 acres of revenue land in Alur taluk of Hassan district near the foot of the Western Ghats.

The 67 acre and 12 gunta under survey number 128 of Abbanna village in Alur taluk was given to the Social Forestry Department in 1995 for raising plantations. In 1992-93, the government selected 3 acre 20 gunta to build sites under Ashraya Housing scheme but later decided not to go ahead with it.

Activist Mohaque Mehra filed a petition before the NGT's southern zone bench stating there have been encroachments on the forest land. Forest officials told the tribunal that it has issued notice to the encroachers to vacate the place. However, the Revenue Department said that the land was a gomala and doesn't belong to the forest department.

A bench of Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana and expert member Satyagopal Korlapati noted that the RTC records of 2001-2019 show that the land belongs to the forest department and went on to order the protection of the land regardless of its ownership.

"In such circumstances, we would only direct the Government of Karnataka to consider retaining these lands as forest land and not to convert them for any other purposes. Any attempt to mutate any revenue records in this regard pending disposal of this application will be non-est in law," it said.

Seeking a response from the government, the bench further noted that eviction of encroachers was 'imperative'.

"Let the government appropriately evict the encroachers from the above referred survey numbers and revert to us," the bench said.

The Supreme Court's 1996 directive to state governments to identify and protect all lands which have the characteristics of the dictionary definition of 'forest', is hailed as a major intervention in the destruction of greenery.

The tribunal's order comes in the wake of the increasing pressure on forest areas over the last few years. Hearing the challenge to the Centre's amendment to the Forest Conservation Act, the apex court in February passed an interim order directing the Centre to follow its 1996 definition of forest until the final verdict.

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Published 13 May 2024, 09:50 IST

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