In a shocking revelation, the latest figures compiled by the Ministry of Environment and Forests reveal that unchecked encroachment on forest land is on the rise.
According to the figures, over 19.57 lakh hectares of forest land is under encroachment in various parts of the country.Madhya Pradesh tops the list with 4.87 lakh hectares under encroachment. Followed by Assam (3.30 lakh ha), Andhra Pradesh (2.57 lakh ha) and Maharashtra (1.83 lakh ha).
The other states where the encroachment is over one lakh hectares are Chhattisgarh (1.18 lakh ha), Karnataka (1.15 lakh ha). The states which reported ‘no encroachment’ are Goa, Lakshadweep and Puducherry.
Most of the encroachment are in terms of forest land being used for agriculture purposes. However, this would lead to illegal hutments to come up after cutting down of trees. Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan had told the Lok Sabha last week that the management and protection of forest area was primarily the responsibility of state. She added that the Ministry has not received any specific information or complaint regarding illegal cultivation due to encroachment on huge tracts of forest land. According to law, the state governments could evict encroachers under the provisions of Indian Forest Act, 1927, Wild Life Protection Act, 1972, Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and the Acts and Rules of various states governments.
To keep a check on encroachers, the Centre has been assisting the states in setting up of check posts, buildings for frontline staff, use of modern technology, including wireless network.