8,000 hectares of Pun­jab’s for­est land in il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion, govt drags feet

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HTREGION - Hil­lary Vic­tor hil­lary.vic­tor@hin­dus­tan­times.com

MO­HALI : Nearly 8,000 hectares of Pun­jab’s for­est land is in the pos­ses­sion of il­le­gal oc­cu­pants with the state gov­ern­ment drag­ging its feet on fram­ing a pol­icy on its de­mar­ca­tion and afforestat­ion, the 2019-20 au­dit re­port of the ac­coun­tant gen­eral (AG) has pointed out.

Th­ese encroachme­nts are caus­ing huge rev­enue losses to the state ex­che­quer, says the re­port which was sent to the ad­di­tional chief sec­re­tary (for­est and wildlife) for clar­i­fi­ca­tion.

De­spite the Pun­jab and Haryana High Court’s 2018 de­ci­sion to trans­fer the land to the for­est de­part­ment, 8,012 hectares still re­mains oc­cu­pied by the en­croach­ers, the re­port adds.

The rev­enue de­part­ment had re­ceived ₹116.77 crore for the pur­chase of non-for­est land for com­pen­satory plan­ta­tion from the fi­nan­cial year 2013-14 to 2018-19, but it spent only ₹10.84 crore till 2013-14 for pro­cure­ment of land for afforestat­ion, it says.

The chief con­ser­va­tor of forests’ records showed that 5 out of 16 di­vi­sions did not have con­tin­u­ous work­ing plans be­tween 2016-17 and 2018-19.

The an­nual re­ports of the Pun­jab State Fi­nan­cial Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (PSFDC) for 2013-14 to 2018-19, re­vealed that the for­est de­part­ment raised loans worth crores of ru­pees with­out the ap­proval of the state as­sem­bly for of­fice use, which is a con­tra­ven­tion of the con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sions.

The re­port adds that 9,814 hectare of for­est land un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of Mo­hali, Ferozepur and Hoshiarpur wildlife di­vi­sions had not been de­mar­cated and the de­part­ment had not com­pleted le­gal pro­ce­dure to mark the bound­aries of pro­tected ar­eas. This had led to prob­lems like encroachme­nts, road ac­ci­dents, man-an­i­mal con­flict and vul­ner­a­bil­ity to cat­tle borne dis­eases.

UNAU­THO­RISED CON­TROL OVER WILDLIFE SANC­TU­ARY

The au­dit re­port says that af­ter the dec­la­ra­tion of the wildlife sanc­tu­ary in Abo­har, the lo­cal peo­ple started to con­vert their land (tib­bas) into agri­cul­tural fields that led to degra­da­tion of habi­tats of en­dan­gered species and black bucks were killed by stray dogs.

The peo­ple did so as the area in the sanc­tu­ary was pri­vate in na­ture.

The fail­ure to trans­fer the con­trol of the sanc­tu­ary to the wildlife wing de­feated the very pur­pose of cre­at­ing pro­tected ar­eas, it adds.

Ad­di­tional chief sec­re­tary (for­est and wildlife) Ravneet Kaur did not re­spond to calls and mes­sages.

ENCROACHME­NTS CAUS­ING HUGE REV­ENUE LOSSES TO THE STATE EX­CHE­QUER IN THE AB­SENCE OF A POL­ICY ON DE­MAR­CA­TION AND AFFORESTAT­ION OF AREA

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