Forests 3 times Goa’s size ‘en­croached on’

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Sport - Vishwa.Mo­han

New Delhi: Nearly 13 lakh hectares of In­dia’s for­est land, an area al­most three times the size of Goa, is en­croached on, with Mad­hya Pradesh alone con­tribut­ing more than 41% of it. The state has recorded an in­crease of more than 66 times in the area of en­croached for­est land in just the past eight years — from 8,077 hectares in 2011 to over 5.34 lakh hectares in 2019 — show­ing how un­abated il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion and piled-up claims un­der the For­est Rights Act have cre­ated a lot of con­fu­sion on the ground.

The lat­est up­dated data on en­croached for­est land in 2019, shared by the Union en­vi­ron­ment min­istry in re­sponse to ques­tions un­der RTI, shows that the top five states in the list to­gether cur­rently ac­count for nearly 82% of the to­tal en­croached land.

Though the min­istry, in its re­ply to the RTI plea filed by Delhi-based lawyer and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist Akash Vashishtha, doesn’t re­spond to the na­ture of en­croach­ment, it shares the com­plete list of state-wise en­croach­ment say­ing the “pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­tec­tion of forests from var­i­ous threats, in­clud­ing en­croach­ment, lies with the re­spec­tive state/UT gov­ern­ments”.

The min­istry also said state/UT gov­ern­ments “fix re­spon­si­bil­ity and take ac­tion against those found guilty”.

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