Forest dept plans to create library

Forest department officials sift through maps at the department head office in Bengaluru.

The base maps of the forests of Karnataka, which were strewn in the store room of the forest department are now getting a new lease of life. Two months ago, the department opened the doors of the store room to properly arrange forest maps and gazettes as old as 1890. These are base maps of the state’s forests.

The condition of these maps is very bad and forest officials handling them have to wear masks while analysing the dusty maps. They have been bitten by termites. Some have spider webs on them and others have been nibbled at by rodents. The maps have been removed from the store room and have been kept in a office, where each map is being analysed. For the last two months, officials have checked 2,000 maps and have 2,000 more to assess. Same is the case with the gazette document of each forest patch.

“This is the first time ever this exercise is being done. This will help us in our court cases. Each map is being dusted, laminated and digitised. A division-wise catalogue of the maps will be prepared. A library will be created, which citizens can also access. The exercise is presently limited to the head office. But territorial offices have been told to gather all maps and documents for the initiative,” said a senior department official.

“It all started when we were looking for maps of Bommanahalli in Bengaluru. The official concerned said he needed time to search them. That is when we came to know of the condition of the maps. We found 6,000 files that are over 50 years and a list of 1,250 areas notified under Section-4. The department has been struggling to get most of these areas notified as deemed forests, when they have already been done,” the official said.

The department will re-survey all forest boundaries, using the base maps that have been found. The department had requested the government to recruit 18 retired forest settlement officers two months ago, to survey the forests. But the request is still pending.

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Forest dept plans to create library

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