Monday, November 19, 2007

Rampant encroachment of forests worries Gujarat

Ahmedabad (PTI): As the UPA government mulls a Forest Rights Act, Gujarat's forest department is overtly worried over rampant encroachment of prime woodland in tribal belts of the state.

"According to official records, an alarming 24,000 hectares of forest land have been encroached upon," a senior forest official told PTI, requesting anonymity.

"Most of these are fresh encroachments which have taken place after the UPA government decided to bring in the Forest Rights Act and give rights to tribal families living in reserve forests, sanctuaries and national parks," the official said.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill was passed in the winter session of Parliament and received the President's assent on December 29, 2006. However, it is yet to be notified.

"Most of these encroachments took place in the tribal belts in Narmada, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Panchmahal, Dahod, Banaskantha and Sabarkantha districts.

"The district of Narmada is among the worst affected," he said.

"Once the Forest Act comes into force, it will be a major disaster for woodland in Gujarat," the official said.


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