BENGALURU: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) slammed the state government over unauthorised Jungle Lodges running in forest land without prior permission, for the past many years.
The CAG report was tabled on Thursday at the Upper House. The report on the Forest Department, a copy of which is available with The New Indian Express, highlights the eco tourism activities carried out by the departmental agencies without approval. It states that any non-forest activity in a forest area, such as eco tourism, requires prior approval of the Central government under the Forest Conservation Act. The Act also stipulates that the state government should forward the applications within 210 days from the date of receipt of the proposal for diversion of forest land.
The audit observed that Jungle Lodges and Resorts Ltd, which has been operating 11 cottage camps since August 1982 in forest areas at eight divisions, has not taken any such approval. However, in 2011-13, Jungle Lodges and Resorts finally applied for approval for diversion of around 45 hectares of forest land.
The audit scrutiny revealed that of the 11 applications, 10 are still pending with the divisions concerned and one is pending with APCCF. In 2012, the Central Empowered Committee observed that Jungle Lodges requires approval from Central government under the Forest Conservation Act. In spite of this, the agency was allowed to operate in the forest area without mandatory approval.
On behalf of the state government, PCCF however stated that eco tourism was permitted under the Central government guidelines and is promoted by both the state and Union governments. PCCF also replied that under the Forest Conservation Act, a forest land can be assigned for forest-related purpose to agencies that are owned, managed or controlled by the government.
Reacting to this, the CAG said that this shows the reluctance to take appropriate action on unauthorised usage of forest land by the Forest Department, which is responsible for enforcement of the act.
CAG said since they have not taken any prior permission, they can take post facto approval, which can be obtained by paying Rs 10.22 crore for 45 hectares besides the penal charges of Rs 8.83 crore which has not been paid so far, the CAG report added.