HC directs for retrieving of encroached forest land

Fayaz Bukhari
Srinagar, Apr 12: In a startling revelation, Forest department has revealed that around 84,000 kanals of forest land is under illegal occupation of encroachers in the State for decades and the Government has not taken any step to get it retrieved despite the various directions passed by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Throwing the numerous directions of High Court to winds, authorities were directed to retrieve the land from the encroachers with earnest efforts.
In Kashmir division, 4181.13 hectares (83620 Kanals) of forest land in various forest divisions is under illegal occupation while as in Jammu division, 249 kanals of forest land is under illegal occupation.
Divisional Forest Officer Ganderbal (in his communication no. 5296-97/E dated 25.3.17) submitted the total forest area of Sindh Forest Division  Ganderbal is 37901 hectares and out of which 475.82 hectares of forest land is at present in illegal occupation of 1752 encroachers and no forest land as per his statement has been allotted to any person.
With regard to census of trees in the forest area, the officer said that forest has a vast area and there are hundreds of varieties of trees. “As regards their number no census to this effect is possible and no fresh encroachments are reported from the last 10 years and efforts are on to evict the encroached land”, read the communication.
About the steps taken for protection of wild life, trees and forest land by the administration, he has stated that forest damages have been minimized to a large extent and if any forest damage is noticed the culprit involved in the offence is being dealt under the provisions of the Forest Act.
Divisional Forest Officer Anantnag (vide his communication no. DFOA/RTI/1609-10/FWT dated: 9.3.17) stated that total forest land under illegal encroachment in his division is 931.11 hectares out of total forest area which is 79833 hectares.
Divisional Forest Officer Forest Division Kralpora (vide his communication no. DFO/Keh/2016-17/1665-67/B dt: 27/2/17) submitted that there is 579.90 hectares of forest land under encroachment in various places of this division which has been encroached by some miscreants and certain elements since decades especially during turmoil period in the Valley who are residing in fringes, inaccessible and remote areas of the division.
“However efforts and steps have been taken to retrieve the encroached forest area from the illegal occupants by registering FIRs against them and also proper cases have been framed for action under law, besides notices under section 48A have been issued against the illegal encroachers and the forest land under illegal occupation is being evicted”, the DFO submitted.
For last few years, he said that  55.34 hectares of land has been evicted from the illegal occupants and no forest land has been allotted to any of the person so for in this division.
Divisional Forest Officer Kamraj Forest Division Zangli (vide his communication no. DFO/Kmj/916-17/Estt dated: 2/3/17) stated that total forest land under encroachment in his division as on date is 461.25 hectares.
Divisional Forest Officer Forest Division Baramulla (in his communication no. DFO/JV/Estt/RTI/2016-17/1663-65 dt: 25/2/17) revealed that 376.34 hectares of forest land is under illegal occupation in the division and no land has been allotted by the department to any person.
Divisional Forest Officer Chittarnar (in his communication dated: 20/2/17) stated that 130.40 hectares of forest land is presently under illegal encroachments. “19.48 hectares of forest land is under illegal occupation of 137 illegal occupants including a hotelier owner of Khyber hotel Gulmarg”, revealed the communication bearing no. DFO/TNG/Estt/729-30 dated: 27.2.2017.
Divisional Forest Officer, Urban Forestry Division, Srinagar said that there is no encroachment case in this division till date.
Divisional Forest Officer Pir Panjal forest division Budgam revealed that an area of 629.24 hectares of forest land is under encroachment in Pir Panjal range as on Feb 2017 and no forest land has been allotted to any person by the department as on date.
Divisional Forest Officer forest division Langate (vide his communication no. DFO/LGT/Estt/RTI 2016-17/1867-69 dated: 2/3/2017) stated that 577.59 hectares of forest land is under illegal encroachment in Langate division and no forest land has been allotted to any person and fruit bearing trees are planted in forest area to save the wild life.
Public Information Officer and ACF (Wildlife Warden) Jammu (vide his communication no. WLP/Estt/RTI/2017/1886 dated: 30/1/2017) revealed that encroachment on such land which falls within protected areas in Ramnagar wildlife sanctuary which spreads over the area of 12.75 Sqkm and out of which 33 Kanals of land is encroached by 32 families. In Nandni wildlife sanctuary, the area is spread on 33.34 Sq km and out of which 200 kanals of land has been encroached by 11 families among it 25 kanals of area is evicted.
“In Sudhmadev conservation reserve the protected area is spread on 142.25 Sq km of land and 3 families have encroached 16 kanals and out of which 5 kanals have been retrieved”, PIO Jammu said.
In wildlife division Kathua 10.04 Sq km protected area is on records and among it 10 hectares and 2 kanals is encroached while as the same have been retrieved from 7 families (encroachers).
The officer submitted that various strategic and operational arrangements are in place to save the wild animals among them are establishment of control rooms which are equipped with various tools besides those existing human resources is strengthened and technology is improved to strengthen management of area and protection of wildlife.