Admitting that the forest cover is shrinking in Jammu and Kashmir, the state government said that over 12,000 hectares of demarcated forest land is under encroachment of various persons, including a minister and some
luxury hotels, even as efforts are on to recover the land.
“It is a fact that the forest cover is shrinking unabated in the state. Shrinking of forest cover is due to degradation of the demarcated forests, caused by various biotic pressures including human beings,” Forest Minister Lal Singh said in a written reply in the state Assembly.
He said 12,030.49 hectares of demarcated forest land was under encroachment in the state, while diversion of 11,924 hectares for non-forestry purposes under Forest (Conservation) Act for developmental purposes caused reduction of forest cover.
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Singh said Animal Husbandry Minister A G Kohli, a senior leader of BJP, and former minister and senior Congress leader Taj Mohiuddin were among those who have encroached forest land.
“Kohli constructed an educational institution in Khasra No:356 (plot of land) about 15 years back. A PIL was filed in the high court and recently, the Vigilance Organisation has sought the information regarding status of the plot.
“When the demarcation was done by the forest department, it reveals that about two kanals (0.25 acres) of forest land is under encroachment by the minister.
“However, the revenue department had submitted its report stating that the educational institute owned by Kohli falls in state land under a separate plot number (Khasra 264),” the forest minister said, adding the matter is now sub-judice before the high court.
He said an area of 26.20 kanals (3.2 acres) of forest land at Sedev of Shopian forest division was found to be encroached by former Minister Taj Mohiuddin.
“Under section 48(a) of State Forest Act, eviction notices have been served upon him for vacating the encroachment. He filed an appeal in Special Tribunal Srinagar where the matter is under trial,” the minister said.
Among the business houses, the minister said, the Khyber Resorts in the famous ski resort of Gulmarg has encroached about one kanal (5,440 sq feet) of forest land for which legal eviction notice has been issued for vacating the same.
“The land will be recovered in due course of time after completing all legal formalities,” Singh said.
He said proceedings under Public Premises (Eviction of unauthorized occupants) Act were initiated against owners of six hotels in Patnitop along Srinagar-Jammu national highway and the cases are under litigation in different courts.
“The State High Court has constituted a committee in 2004 to report the details of buildings or structures that have violated the Patnitop Development Authority approved plan and encroached forest land.
“It was found that 14 hotels in Patnitop have encroached the forest land as per the records. However, eight forest land encroachments by the hotels have already been evicted,” he said.