SC wants govt to explain forest encroachment increased

The Supreme Court has asked the Karnataka government to explain how the encroachment in reserve forest areas of Chikkamagaluru district has increased and identify the officers responsible for it.

The top court took a serious note of a report by the court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) showing de-reservation of 81 acres as well as fresh illegal occupation of 25 acres of land in Sargodu reserve forest, showing an increase in the encroachment.

“Let Karnataka respond to the CEC report and specifically answer as to how the number of encroachers has increased and who is responsible for them,” a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta said in their order passed on October 4.

The CEC, through its member secretary Amarnath Shetty, submitted the report stating de-reservation of forest land of 81.23 acres of Sargodu reserve forest was made on December 27, 2006, in violation of the Supreme Court’s order of November 13, 2000, in the T N Godavarman’s case.

“Fresh encroachment of 25.39 acres has taken place outside the denotified area and within the Sargodu reserve forest. This encroachment has come up after denotification of 81.23 area. At the time, when the survey was conducted in 2006, there were 15 families of pre-1978 encroachment and five tribal families of post-1978 encroachment, which were living in this area. The number of families has gone up from 30 to 38,” the report stated.

In its recommendations with regard to Sargodu reserve forest, the CEC said encroachers should be evicted within two months and be relocated. Action must be taken against the officers who de-reserved 81.23 acres of forest land.

With regard to Maskali reserve forest, the panel has asked the state government to complete construction of houses by March 31, 2020 and to relocate 39 encroachers after payment of Rs 5 lakh as ex-gratia, to new houses by April 30, 2020.

It also said 109 encroachers, who are not eligible for any resettlement package, should be evicted forthwith. It favoured the cancellation of 31 cases of land held by private parties.

“If the state government fails to remove the encroachment, compensation of Rs 10,000 per month for each acre should be payable for continued environment loss. The amount shall be deposited in the State Campa account for protection and conservation of forests
in the district,” it said.

In Thatkola reserve area, the CEC noted 148 encroachers from 611.25 acres of land have been removed and boundaries of forest have been demarcated.

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