Decline in forest areas as podu land cultivation grows in erstwhile Adilabad in Telangana

According to forest officials, a recent survey of podu farmers revealed that most of them also have two to three forest land plots under cultivation.
Forest officials do not obstruct farmers who have been cultivating forest lands for years without extending their activities illegally, such as by using electric fencing to prevent wildlife.
Forest officials do not obstruct farmers who have been cultivating forest lands for years without extending their activities illegally, such as by using electric fencing to prevent wildlife. Photo | Express

ADILABAD : The tussle between podu farmers and forest officials continues every rainy season in various places, resulting in a decline of forest areas in the erstwhile Adilabad district.

According to forest officials, a recent survey of podu farmers revealed that most of them also have two to three forest land plots under cultivation. Farmers with revenue land are also encroaching on forest lands, slowly increasing their boundaries each year. The tussle intensifies after the transfer of local forest officers, as new officers need time to understand the village situation. In Kondapelli, Chadvai, and a few other forest areas in the Penchkalpet range, forest land encroachment is high. In Kondapelli village, 90% of farmers have revenue land while also engaging in podu land cultivation, the officials added. Recently, three cases were filed against farmers for increasing their boundaries by felling trees.

Migration is increasing in some villages because locals clear forest lands and hand them over to migrant families from other villages. These families settle in the villages hoping to obtain pattas for the lands. Some villagers even give forest land as dowry to their daughters, with the newlywed couples settling in the villages and cultivating podu lands.

Forest officials do not obstruct farmers who have been cultivating forest lands for years without extending their activities illegally, such as by using electric fencing to prevent wildlife. They allow these farmers to continue as long as they do not engage in illegal activities. However, when farmers return to forest areas and clear land for cultivation after leaving it for a few years, officials obstruct them. Once the land is left, it is taken under control, and officials do not return it to farmers even if trees have grown on it.

In undivided Andhra Pradesh, the then chief minister YS Rajashekhar Reddy issued pattas to eligible podu farmers. This led to an increase in forest land cultivation as farmers cleared forest areas in hopes of obtaining land certificates.

Under the BRS government, former chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao also issued certificates to farmers, further increasing forest land cultivation in the hope of receiving official documentation.

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