Karnataka Forest Department seeks Revenue Department's assistance to reclaim encroached forest lands

The Forest Department has identified around 75,000 acres of encroached government land, with over 600 acres taken over by resort owners.
 Karnataka Forest Department (Photo | Twitter)
Karnataka Forest Department (Photo | Twitter)

BENGALURU: As the Karnataka Forest Department intensifies its crackdown on encroachers of forest lands, officials from various forest divisions have written to their counterparts in the Revenue Department, requesting documents and transaction details related to private resorts around forest areas.

This demand has gained momentum after the Forest Department issued notices to resort owners, asking them to vacate encroached spaces. The resorts have responded by claiming they purchased the lands from the Revenue Department. As the Forest Department and resort owners battle it out in the Karnataka Land Grabbing Prohibition Special Court, the Forest Department is also seeking data from the Revenue Department.

Recently, under the Court's directions, the Forest Department prepared a list of encroachments by resorts, identifying around 75,000 acres of government land as encroached, with over 600 acres taken over by resort owners. The report also indicated that at least nine homestays and resorts are operating within the limits of the BRT Tiger Reserve. In Sakleshpur, a 14-acre Shola forest has been destroyed for a resort. Similar encroachments have been noted along the Bandipur and Nagarhole Tiger Reserves. Large patches of land have also been encroached upon in Kodagu, Chikkamagalur, and Uttara Kannada districts.

A senior Forest Department official, who wished to remain anonymous, told The New Indian Express, "The lands in contention are listed under Section-4 of the Forest Protection Act. These were notified as reserve forests before they were officially declared as such. All wildlife rules apply to these lands. However, we are unable to close them down as the resorts have approached courts. These resorts display their details on Google Earth, showing the extent of the land, which includes forest patches. But they are not sharing purchase documents, so we are asking the Revenue Department for details."

The official added that they had recently halted the operations of some resorts, but the owners approached courts, arguing that the closures would affect their bookings and reputation. FIRs have been filed, and summons have been issued, but there has been little cooperation from the resort owners. "We do not have documents of handing over lands to the Revenue Department. We have asked our counterparts to share documents of the land parcels handed over to the Revenue Department, as there are no such records with us. The British-era lease agreements have also expired, and lands in Kodagu, Chikkamagalur, and Sakleshpur need to be reclaimed," the official added.

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